“Terms of Endearment” by Larry McMurtry

Terms of Endearment

Genre: Comedy-Drama
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 1975

You have seen the movie and probably read the book (they are dissimilar). So you are probably familiar with the author, Larry McMurtry’s, two characters Aurora Greenway and her daughter Emma. Aurora, a well-to-do widow, “is the kind of woman who makes the whole world orbit around her, including a string of devoted suitors.” Emma, as her mother feels, married beneath her, which is a constant source of friction between them—the line that reads Emma’s husband “ain’t fit to kick off a porch” in this book is a term of endearment because she loves her daughter. Get it?

I enjoyed the movie and I am a fan of McMurtry, so it felt like a no-brainer that I would enjoy the book. Unfortunately, it is just an okay read. For once, the movie is better than the book. In both, I didn’t cry (possible spoiler) when Emma dies of cancer. Neither seems very realistic, though at least Emma loses her hair in the novel. Debra Winger remained beautiful until her character dies. Other variations from book to movie are that the novel is 75% about Aurora, which is okay since she is a very funny character. The book switches to the daughter at the end of the novel, but the reader doesn’t have time to connect to her, leaving one without the intended waterworks. There is no Jack Nicholson astronaut character in the novel, but there is Aurora’s maid, Rosie, of twenty-two years, and her husband, both are wonderful characters. Petite Rosie argues “I might not be no bigger than a chicken, but I got fight.” The husband thinks that his wife “is no more buxom than a door-jamb” and he is smitten with voluptuous Aurora, making for good comedy. It is clear that the acclaimed author is a master with words. His dialogue and imagery are superb. And even if his pacing is off in “Endearment,” his skills might be worth the effort of reading the novel.

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