Originally published August 2013
Some books are loud, others not so much. The Measures Between Us is indeed, a quiet story—quiet, and stubborn.
Set just outside Boston, Ethan Hauser’s debut novel is all about relationships in the midst of madness. For some, it’s evident. Victor and Mary struggle with a decision to hospitalize their young adult daughter, Cynthia. Others? It’s hidden beneath the surface—Henry Wheeler and his wife Lucinda seem to be young and in love and moving forward with a baby on the way. But for both husband and wife, the relationship is a struggle, and neither are talking to the either about it.
Hauser puts forth a insanely remarkable effort in detailing the emotions of his characters—so much so, it’s easy to crawl into their brains. Victor’s quiet desperation and just general sensibility as he puts one foot in front of another as the wood shop teacher in his school; Lucinda living just about every pregnant woman’s fantasy at one point or another of just getting on a plane to get away from it all; and Cynthia’s inexplicable but very real sadness. As much as this book is about the essence of relationships, it’s about the individuals inside them. Think about it hard enough and you may start to wonder just what your partner is thinking at any given moment, and if you really understand who they are.
The scene that nailed it for me? Cynthia’s mom Mary, catching up with her at a road closure due to rising waters. Mary’s inability to let her daughter go, and Cynthia’s inability to recognize that smothering as a reaction to being so terrified, you’d rather be attached at the hip than risk losing something you love more than yourself, isn’t fiction anymore. That’s life.
I do, however, have an issue with how the book comes to a close—or rather, doesn’t. There are parts that feel so disjointed, I’m not sure what to make of it. On the other hand, mental illness is disjointing. There are no easy answers. Sometimes, there is no closure. And with this debut effort, that’s exactly what you don’t get—closure. Read The Measures Between Us at your own sweet peril.