There Will Never Be Another You
With There Will Never Be Another You, Carolyn See addresses the emotional stresses, terror, and hysteria Americans have and continue to experience in a post-September 11 world, while also examining the timeless personal events, such as death, divorce, and disease that have always reshaped people’s lives. The novel does this by following three generations of the Fuchs family as they try to function in a dysfunctional society and redefine themselves through conquering the challenges life has set in front of them.
See once again chooses Southern California as the setting of her latest novel, this time selecting the affluent Los Angeles community of Westwood, which plays an integral role in the story. Amid the city’s mansions, lush college campus, and bustling shopping and dinning promenades, society’s “haves” are faced with the bitter reality of what they “have not”: a widow attempting to make a life for herself without her husband, an attractive, successful young doctor coming to terms with his failing marriage and his privileged children in the balance, and a loving family whose ideal world begins to unravel as the father’s kidneys fail. Despite the secret traumas these externally picture perfect families are going through, See introduces hope through young love, self-assurance, and the courage to take risks that will ensure a second chance at living. Throughout the novel, the reader cannot help relating to the characters on an immensely personal level as each undergoes life-changing events. Such honest, sincere, and identifiable characters have become standard in See’s works, constructed through her usage of simple yet effective language and raw, genuine emotion.
The story begins on September 11, 2001, at six o’clock in the morning, as the matriarch, Edith, begins to clean out the medical supplies that comforted her dying husband Charlie, who passed away the night before. Edith is snapped out of her chore by a phone call. Her son Phil, not waiting to exchange hellos, instructs her to turn on the television and watch history being made as the World Trade Center is engulfed in flames. Edith hangs up and reluctantly turns on the television. She is impressed momentarily and thenremembering that her beloved husband breathed his last breath in her arms hours ago and exposing her bare essence, comprising fear and exhaustionexclaims, “Excuse me, God, but you’re going to have to do better than that if you want to impress me!” The brief prologue immediately sets the stage for what is an engaging, personal, and enduring novel in which See carefully, and caringly, juxtaposes the events surrounding September 11 and their lasting effects with the timeless traumas that continue to affect and alter lives. The reader is guided through these external and internal forces by characters openly displaying their loss of self and feelings of isolation and inadequacy and exposing their own frailty.
The novel fast-forwards six years to 2007, where a widowed Edith volunteers at the UCLA medical center on the urging of her only son, Dr. Phil Fuchs. Edith begins to transform the medical center into her own private sanctuary, which allows her to forget her lonely life and feelings of self-pity and uselessness. It is quickly established that Dr. Fuchs goes to the center not only to practice dermatology but also to escape his miserable family life. In this regard the medical center becomes a separate character, one that offers refuge to the other characters from their complicated and deteriorating lives.
Dr. Fuchs is a handsome doctor, with a successful career and privileged lifestyle. To the outsider he has an enviable professional and private life, yet his home life is crashing down around him. His forty-year-old wife, Felicia, is in the midst of a midlife crisis and makes wild demands raging from wanting another child, to buying an avocado farm, to vacationing in Australia. His thirteen-year-old daughter, Eloise, is a moody teenager who elevates scowling to an art form but is smart enough to...
(The entire section is 1653 words.)