Lambert, Charles. “Prodigal”, Gallic, 2019.
Siblings and Their Flaws
When Rachel, Jeremy Eldritch’s sister lets him know that his father is dying, he returns to the family home on the English countryside and has to once again face the life that he thought he had escaped. He starts out on an emotional journey into his family’s past going back to the death of his mother years ago and then even further back to when his family fell to pieces. In “Prodigal”, writer Charles Lambert has us rethink what we known of the nature of trust, death and love in this bold queer coming-of-age story. It is honest and it is raw with characters filled with conflict and inconsistencies. This is a real look at humans and their flaws.
We follow the story of Jeremy and his sister Rachel who faced the deaths of both their parents. Rachel is dealing with divorce while Jeremy is finally able to live the free gay life that he could not have at home. Jeremy was close to his mother although after her death he ended up feeling that he did not understand her. Rachel was hostile to their mother and close to her father. Yet after his death, we realize that Rachel’s understanding of him was inaccurate. She lived with many illusions but is blind to them. Jeremy and Rachel didn’t get along either but after both deaths they finally find a tentative connection. What we see are the many ways that families can be broken and fail to live up to connection, support and comfort that they should share with each other.
The siblings spend much of their lives struggling to connect with others and making poor relationship decisions. It seems that the closed nature of both of their parents and their damaged relationship and subsequent divorce damaged both of them. Jeremy comes across as a “petulant child” who lusts after handsome men like an adolescent. Rachel is naïve and conservative in her thought processes and is uncomfortable with her brother’s sexuality. She lives in a social world where homosexuality is seen as shameful and we see how Jeremy grew up with neuroses because his family did not support who he is.
This is the story of the Eldritch family and the secrets and resentments that led to the adult children’s estrangement. Jeremy and Rachel are unattractive; self-centered, self-pitying and filled with resentment. Reading about them is not easy but the beautiful prose saves that.