Tangled Themes Part 1 – Divorce

I’ve been wanting to blog more about Tanglewood Terror and the themes buried in it like mycelial cords. Laurel Snyder issued a pretty good challenge to start with his parents’ divorce/separation, which is part of Eric’s story and part of Rebecca’s story in Laurel’s Bigger than a Breadbox, which comes out in a week or two.

So I’ve been mulling it over, and am not sure I have any wisdom to share. Although the fracture of Eric’s family is integral to the book — the overall feeling that the world is coming apart around him — the book isn’t about divorce. It has more to do with fatherhood.

Eric’s dad is a “cool dad,” but preoccupied with his ambitions and leaves his family to chase his dreams. This compels Eric to be a 13-year-old father figure, of sorts — taking care of his little brother, trying a couple of times to say the appropriate supportive things to his mother — a role he’s not really ready for. From the start of the book, Eric takes way too much responsibility on his husky shoulders. Even his feelings about his parents separating are expressed more as concern for his little brother than himself. Being a tough kid, he’ll never admit to having feelings.

But maybe that’s how divorce always is to older siblings. My favorite scenes in Laurel’s book are the ones between Rebecca and her little brother, when she becomes an emergency backup parent in the same way. The breakups change the roles kids have… they need to feel a void somewhere at the top.