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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Kramer vs. Kramer: A Novel


It was at Book Expo a couple of years ago that I picked up a copy of Avery Corman's Kramer vs. Kramer, and I believe it was an anniversary edition. I saw the movie years ago and wanted to take a read for myself. 

Ted and Joanna were a perfectly fine couple, or so Ted thought. After they had a baby boy, Joanna stayed home with him while Ted continued his work as a salesman. Except Joanna wanted more, and after not getting the support she needed from her husband, she leaves him and their son, Billy. Ted is shell shocked, as he doesn't know how to be a single father. Eventually he learns, and he comes to love and value their life together. When Joanna returns some time later  and demands custody of her son, Ted will fight her tooth and nail to keep the little boy he has grown to need. 

I have quite mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, as I got deeper into it, I got used to Corman's writing style which I found to be unnecessarily formal and stilted for a novel. Sometimes it get as if he were writing the story as he believed it should be rather than how the cash archers needs it to play out. His writing lacks a flow and often feels forced. It doesn't help that this book is a product of its time; the 1970's wasn't exactly a time known for its strident feminism or support of women as humans. It shows in the literature. 

Corman treats Joanna as a fragile creature, often bordering on nutcase. In 2017, it's not hard to see why she wanted to have a job, and to feel more fulfilled than that which being a mother provides. I get my it -- I absolutely have the need to work while loving my child deeply and widely. Toward the end of the book, I felt the story treated her a bit more fairly, and I see that the story is really Ted's, and it's from his perspective. I just wasn't the world's biggest fan of the portrayal of the character. 

That being said, about halfway through the story I was able to buy in to it, and it got much better. I loved the relationship that Ted built with Billy, and the honesty of the relationship in that Ted loves his son but also needs a break. It was a sweet story in that Ted fights tooth and nail for his son -- it feels that it should always be that way, for the pure motives. While the ending is unrealistic, and frankly stupid, the relationship that Ted fights for is very real, and the heartbreak when he loses custody is really quite sad. That was the heart of the book, in my reading. 

I don't remember much about the movie, so now that I'm done with the book I will go back and watch it, which should be interesting since I kept picturing the stars in the roles as I read the book. 

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