We spent every day together. It was the kind of reckless overnight friendship particular to those who are young, lonely, and ambitious. Gradually, item by item, Bobby brought over his records, his posters, his clothes. We spent just enough time at his house for me to know what he was escaping from: a stale sour smell of soiled laundry and old food, a father who crept with drunken caution from room to room. Bobby slept in a sleeping bag on my floor.
I read this novel after watching the film by the same name for which Michael Cunningham also wrote the screenplay (starring e.g. Colin Farrell and Robin Wright Penn).
Bobby and Jonathan grow up in the 1960s and 70s experimenting with drugs and listening to the Grateful Dead, Laura Nyro and Van Morrison in Cleveland. Their friendship ends when Jonathan moves to New York to study and befriends Clare, an eccentric jewellery-maker. They embark on an artistic, bohemian lifestyle while orphaned Bobby remains drifting in blissful aimlessness in Cleveland with Jonathan's mother, Alice, and his father, Ned.
When Bobby finally decides to move to New York to live with Jonathan and Clare, a strange love triangle ensues. Bobby and Clare become lovers while Jonathan, who is gay, seeks for intimacy elsewhere. When Clare becomes pregnant, the three decide to start a family consisting of two fathers and one mother, where the ties of friendship and love are not dictated by convention.
The novel paints brilliantly realistic pictures especially of the three protagonists as well as Alice, Jonathan's mother, who represents an older generation. Each character narrates parts of the story at a time.
The main trio in the novel questions the traditional notion of family and explores the ambiguous quality of love and sexuality. One of the best novels I've read this year!
Michael Cunningham: A Home at the End of the World. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 1990.
MichaelCunningham.com: A Home at the End of the World
Wikipedia: A Home at the End of the World