What is it like for a girl to grow up with a dad who is old enough to be her grandfather? Lissa Power is finding out first-hand in the mid-twentieth century. She’s close with her father from the beginning, but when she loses her mother at a young age, she becomes the center of her elderly father’s entire world. The two are inseparable and the other kids can’t seem to understand their relationship, but Lissa’s daddy has always been unconditionally proud of her. The relationship seems idealistic, but such intense devotion also proves to be oppressive.
In Christine Davis Merriman’s debut novel, At the Far End of Nowhere (Green Writers Press), her protagonist Lissa grows up in a farmhouse outside of Baltimore, contrasting their small family’s peaceful and rigid farm life with an onslaught of rising social issues. Merriman throws her characters head-on into the tumultuous decades of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, forcing them to deal with the nationwide issues of race tensions, modernization, and suburbanization in addition to their own personal, domestic problems. Her writing weaves reality with fantastic tales shared between Lissa and her aging father in a seamless, often indistinguishable way.
While Lissa’s classmates are occupied with thoughts of school dances and shaving their legs for the first time, she is stuck living in the old-fashion world of her father. A watchmaker by trade, Stouten Power sees no real value in modernization and imposes a strict set of outdated rules for his daughter.
She’s not to wear makeup or even to bathe regularly and her contact with the outside world diminishes as she is forced to take on more and more responsibility at home as the new woman of the house. Lissa sacrifices a great deal in order to care for her father, but she can only give so much. Now she’ll have to find the balance between pleasing her life-long best friend and becoming her own person.
This coming-of-age story forces Lissa to consider how much she is willing to give up for family and who she wants to be as an adult. Though it’s a tough time in history and in her personal life, Lissa finds reprieve from the stress in the ever-changing stories her father tells. He claims the tales are true representations of the past, but the details seem to change with each new iteration. Maybe it isn’t the authenticity of the story that’s so important, but rather the lesson that can be learned from it. Or, perhaps the true value of stories is the escape from reality that they provide. At the Far End of Nowhere is both a historically engaging and sentimentally compelling read.
At the Far End of Nowhere is available for purchase.
ABOUT CHRISTINE DAVIS MERRIMAN:
Christine Davis Merriman completed her MFA in Imaginative Writing/Fiction at UMass Amherst forty years ago. As an undergrad, she won Towson State University’s John S. Lewis Fiction Award for a collection of short stories, and was eager to pursue a career in fiction. Then “life” intervened, with marriage, a son, divorce, a second marriage, and a thirty-year career at Johns Hopkins. In 2017, she retired, put down her technical writer’s pen, and completed her debut novel, At the Far End of Nowhere. Christine and her husband live in a 1929 farmhouse in northern Baltimore County, Maryland.