Flap’s cheeks had thinned, but he still had something of his old look, part arrogant, part self-deprecating – though the arrogance had worn thin after sixteen years. Somehow that look had won her, though she couldn’t remember, looking at him, what the terms of endearment had been, or how they had been lost for so long. -From The Terms Of Endearment, page 400-
Larry McMurtry’s gift as a writer is to fully inhabit the lives of his characters, and then bring the reader into their world. He is one of the few male authors who writes convincingly from the point of view of a female protagonist. In Terms of Endearment, he captures the essence of Aurora Greenway – sharp, sarcastic, in control of everyone (including her numerous ‘suitors,’ and yet with a heart that is full of love for those around her – and her daughter Emma – fiesty and loveable, a free spirit.
Some of my favorite parts in this novel were McMurtry’s characterizations of Aurora.
“Vernon, you have a great many irritating physical mannerisms,” she said. “I hope you mean to try and whittle those down. I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I’ve always felt fee to criticize people immediately. I don’t see that it can hurt to try and improve someone. I’ve never quite been able to improve anyone up to the point where I could accept them, but I do fancy that I’ve improved a few men enough to make them palatable to others.” -From Terms of Endearment, page 154-
In the end, the book is about the connections we make with others and how those connections fortify us in the face of all that life throws in our paths. McMurtry does not disappoint the reader in this heartfelt novel. Be prepared to laugh out loud, but have tissues handy for the tears you will undoubtedly shed.
As I was reading this novel, I couldn’t help but remember moments in the movie – which, by the way, is one of my favorite all time movies. The casting of the movie was true to McMurtry’s characters. Shirley McLaine (as Aurora) and Debra Winger (as Emma) were perfect – their chemistry was beautiful, and I could believe they were mother and daughter. For once, a movie lives up to the book upon which it is based. The winner of five Academy awards (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director and Best Screenplay Adaptation), Terms of Endearment is a movie not to be missed. If you haven’t seen it, I would encourage you to do so. I own the DVD and plan to watch it again this weekend – just so I can laugh and cry some more!