Abby, My Love Analysis
Opening this novel, one assumes that it will be a love story, possibly a predictable love story. Even the opening scene, that of Abby’s graduation and valedictory address, shows an attendant Chip in the audience. When one learns that Chip is going to review the events leading up to this moment, there is still nothing to reveal how shocking and serious things will become before the novel reaches its conclusion.
Chip’s life is relatively normal for a young man without a father. He does the laundry, cooks, cleans the kitchen, and pays his share of the phone bill. He and some young friends briefly go through a rebellious stage—growing their hair, not taking showers, letting their grades lapse. That changes for Chip in English class with the study of poetry, and possibly because both Pete and Abby can identify Chip blind from his smell alone.
Before Abby, there was Karen, whom Chip got to know through acting in plays. Abby is also a good actress, although not on stage; she has to act in order to survive. Chip is surprised when Abby enters high school and becomes involved in student activities before school, after school, and on weekends. Eventually, he figures out why she stays away from home.
Although Chip is comfortable in his own home, he knows that it is not a “normal” home, especially when he and his mother go on vacation to Colorado and she spends a night dining and dancing with Jake and Chip stays up until she returns at three in the morning. The character of Jake could have been more fully fleshed out. He flies in from Colorado when Abby confesses to the incest. Does he offer advice as a judge or as a friend of the Martin family? Because the narration is limited to what Chip sees and learns, readers never know what he says to Abby.
In fact, the reader is not given enough details about what happens to Abby’s family. The message is clear, as Mrs. Morris returns to school and opens up her own accounting office, that a family need not have a man at its helm. At various turns in the story, neither family includes a father although just as Chip leaves, Jake enters. From the book, one can learn much about love—for one’s parents, for those taking the place of parents, for those of the opposite gender. One should also learn something about what Abby feels, in the end, for her father. Unfortunately, readers do not learn this. It is revealed that Chip wants to kill Dr. Morris, that Abby loses a part of herself when she is reminded of her own father, and that he claimed to have been protecting her all these years, a common statement by incestuous fathers.
The novel shows that love is unpredictable and that one must be patient. Chip’s mother is patient: She carries the burden of wondering whether her husband might still be alive, since his body was never found. Can she be happy with another man? Can Chip deal with personality changes in Abby? Many young men would not; they would move on to someone easier to predict and to handle. Will Abby ever truly be able to have a normal romantic relationship? She tells Chip that she wants to, that she wants his hands on her, but not now. More important, Abby learns to say “I love you.”
Abby, My Love shows that even the typical happy family—with a mother at home, an athletic younger daughter, a smart older daughter, and a dentist making a lot of money, enough to give Abby a Rolex that she says feels “like a handcuff”—may not be happy at all, while the fatherless family across town might be wonderful. Among other things, the novel points out that things are not always what they seem.