Uptown praises the wisdom of Chase & Haven
Michael Blouin's Chase & Haven is a heartbreaking look at the impact an unfortunate upbringing can have on adulthood
Chase & Haven, by Michael Blouin, is a beautiful and heartbreaking novel about the aftermath of family abuse and neglect.
The title refers to the main characters, the oddly-but-aptly-named brother and sister (she's Haven). The two were raised in an environment of alcohol and sudden rage.
Haven is determinedly protective of her little brother. She's become adept at reading their father, looking for the tiny signals that foreshadow an angry, explosive episode, usually directed at Chase. Their mother has largely given up, so it's up to Haven to be responsible one. She knows their childhood isn't normal.
For his part, Chase lives a timid existence, anxious at home, an outcast at school.
One day, when things go too far, Haven steals the family car (she can barely see over the dashboard) and the two flee. They're raised by an aunt, a brusque yet obviously affectionate woman, and the two children finally get some stability and nurturing.
Years later, the two are grown up but they're living in molds created in their formative years. Haven studies medicine at first, then gives it up and becomes a teacher. A failed marriage later, she's a single mother to a teenage girl. She's still looking after people: her students, her daughter, her aunt. And her brother.
Meanwhile, Chase is still lost:
'What happened to you?' the waitress said, pouring him a coffee.
'How far back do you want to go,' he asked her, and then, 'What kind of pie do you have'"
Blouin writes with sensitivity for his main characters, and for his readers. Wisely, he doesn't spend too much time on the siblings' childhood, giving us just enough information to form an idea of what it was like. Rather than wallowing in misery, the author is more interested in showing how their unfortunate upbringing affects Chase and Haven in adulthood.
Chase & Haven reminds us childhood is destiny.