This novel defines family members by their relationships to one another. All of their lives revolve around Will, both parents measuring themselves by their relation to, and responses to, their son. Because Will himself is too young to understand their motives, the reader sympathizes with him in his bewilderment, viewing the parents through Will’s eyes even as the author allows the reader to see how the boy has changed their lives. He is a likable five-year-old who remembers his mother’s counsel and tries to be a good son. He responds to Mel’s love, appreciates Corky’s kindness (they remain correspondents over the years), and ultimately becomes a loving husband and father. Throughout most of the novel, however, he is a child hoping to be reunited with his friend but unable to initiate the action.
Readers appreciate the difficulties of Jody’s predicament and admire her determination to forge a new career and yet remain a functioning mother to Will. Gradually, though, her manipulation of others becomes apparent: She accepts Mel’s love with reservations until the opportunity in New York persuades her to marry him, and she unhesitatingly photographs the private life of a real friend, Mary Vickers. Having made the mistake of marrying Wayne, she at first apprehensively and then more and more singlemindedly determines to realize her life as an artist. She sees only potential subjects for her camera. Even Will becomes mainly a subject for the cover of...
(The entire section is 553 words.)