A Home at the End of the World

by Michael Cunningham

Paper Book, 2004


In New York after college, Bobby moves in with Jonathan and his roommate, Clare, a veteran of the city's erotic wars. Bobby and Clare fall in love, scuttling the plans of Jonathan, who is gay, to father Clare's child. Then, when Clare and Bobby have a baby, the three move to a small house upstate to raise "their" child together and create a new kind of family.



Call number



New York : Picador, 2004.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Schmerguls
I read this because it is No. 86 on Entertainment Weekly's 2013 list of the '100 Best Novels Ever' and the reading of it brings to 80 the number of novels on that list I have read. The book begins with an account of weird boys in Cleveland, Johathan and Bobbie, who have parents not overly addicted
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to discipline and who eventually end up in New York living with Clare, who also has a life not conspicuous for moral behavior. Clare seduces Bobbie and eventually has a child, Rebecca, with him which Jonathan considers himself as one ot the child's three parents. None of the main characters have any adherence to morality and Jonathan's male lover, Erich, apparently has AIDS, thought the disease is not named. There is little good I can say for the characters in the book.
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LibraryThing member rainidontmind
"You don't necessarily meet a lot of people in this world."

This is the first of Michael Cunningham's books I've read, but I will be reading all of them. He just flat gets it. By the time I was halfway through, I more or less disliked two of the three main characters, but I wasn't tired of reading
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about them. I wanted to figure them out. I wanted to like them and if I didn't, I wanted to understand why.

This is one of those books that you read a sentence or a paragraph or a scene and it hits you deep down, sometimes in the places where you're most insecure. (If you're someone who underlines quotations, get new pencils. Get a *box* of pencils.) There were times when I was sad or upset about something and would read another book instead because I didn't want to feel everything that this one brought up.

I'm making this book sound like a big downer. It isn't. It's exhilarating, like all the best books, because it tells you what you know is true and then makes you look at it all again.
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LibraryThing member PrincessPaulina
* NO Spoilers were used in the writing of this review! *

This is an example of a well written and engrossing plot about a cast of annoying characters. I couldn't relate to these people or care very much about them because they're glaring examples of the negative qualities plaguing modern society:
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self-centered slackers drifting aimlessly through life, choosing an unconventional lifestyle but still unable to be honest with each other (or themselves) due to an ingrained fear of upsetting the status quo. The female character becomes even more self-centered and insensitive as a mother. After investing almost 350 pages into the lives of these characters, the ambiguous ending was a disappointment. Still, Cunningham's gorgeous prose held my attention riveted, despite its lack of true enlightenment or substance.
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LibraryThing member indygo88
An interesting story involving somewhat of a non-traditional love triangle. I liked the fact that the author was willing to explore a relationship such as this. It's not something one sees in everyday life & it makes the reader pause & think, "Hmm....why not?"
However, I felt this book was missing
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something -- passion, perhaps. The only times I found myself really engaged were in two instances, both when there was a confrontation between two characters & they really allowed their emotions to explode to the forefront. Otherwise, despite the fact that Cunningham chose to alternate character points of view in each chapter, I never really felt like the reader got to know each character. They (the characters) all seemed rather shallow, despite the attempt at fancy prose. And I never really did understand why the few chapters from Alice's point of view were included, as I didn't think they added a particularly necessary point to the story. I had mixed feelings about the ending. It was not exactly what I was expecting, which is usually a good thing, but I thought it fell rather flat & that was disappointing to me.
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LibraryThing member michaelbartley
I liked the novel, interesting characters. this is a novel that explores what makes a family.
LibraryThing member brocade
One of the most powerful openings to a novel I have ever read. The writing is pitch perfect throughout. However--big however--the middle dragged and I found the ending sentimental. Ultimately, despite all the excellent qualities in this novel, I was disappointed.
LibraryThing member FrkFrigg
This book was nothing like I imagined. Somehow I’d gotten the idea it was a bit like some Australian TV-series I saw some of a couple of years ago, don’t remember the name, but it was about a family that moved around, something like that. Don’t remember it so clearly, but this book reminded
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me of it... until I started reading it.

Bobby and Jonathan, who both come from troubled families, become friends (and lovers, sort of) in high school. Then Jonathan moves on and makes a life for himself in New York living with his friend and platonic love, Clare. Bobby stays in Cleveland and lives with Jonathan’s parents. The boys seem split up, but when Jonathan’s parents have to move, Bobby comes to N.Y. to live with Jonathan and Clare. And the rest of the book is about the three of them, their relationship and lives together. The story is told by multiple narrators: Bobby, Jonathan, Alice (Jonathan’s mom) and Clare, and though it often bothers me (it does a little bit this time too) it works quite well in this novel.

I am rather ambivalent about this book. I don’t like the characters. Well, I kind of like Bobby, but then again, he’s just too far out, so all in all I don’t really like them! Yet there’s something so honest about them, which I like. For all of them (perhaps except Bobby) you can say, that they think a lot about their life, their future, their happiness, too much in my opinion. I get the urge to scream at them: THINK LESS, LIVE MORE!!! Often the book seemed so navel gazing, self-centered that I almost couldn’t have it. Nonetheless, all their thinking is part of what makes this book so interesting.

All in all I like the book. Even though I’m not sure how to feel about it, I really do like it and find it recommendable.
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LibraryThing member EricaKline
Good, 2 boys growing up, in love with each other, one is gay. Lyrical, sad and touching.
LibraryThing member Alirambles
I don't reread books very often, but this is one of those books where you read a passage and it so succinctly captures a moment, scene, or character, that you have to read it again just to take the whole thing in. Then you want to look up from the book for a minute to absorb it, read it again, and
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then dive back into the story to find out what happens next. This is the first book I've read by Michael Cunningham and I'm afraid to read any more. But, I'm going to anyway.

It's the story of two childhood friends, Jonathon and Bobby, who drift apart and together again throughout their lives because they can't quite admit to being in love with each other. They find various ways to be together, along with Clare, who becomes the mother to a baby that is biologically Bobby's but emotionally just as much Jonathon's child. They build a life together. But the brilliance in this book is the way it presents the characters in all their imperfections, the way they don't do what you want them to do and you understand why. No, the briliance is how it's written, actually. The plot is secondary. I need to go read it again.
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LibraryThing member devilwrites
Cunningham has an excellent ability to force his readers to pay attention to his characters. Here we have three, and we get them from three different first person POV's, which from a lesser writer would've failed horribly. The story focuses on three friends/lovers who are dealing with love, life,
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relationships, family, and what does to each of these. Not a traditional story about traditional relationships, these are real people bleeding on the page, and sometimes, it hurts to see them act so believably.
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LibraryThing member karima29
Ooh, this book is lovely. I like this author very much as well. He also wrote "The Hours", which was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Claire Danes, and Ed Harris. Wonderful book, and movie.

This book was also made into a movie, and I must admit that I watched
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the movie first and liked it so much that I got the book. And then of course, you know what 'they" say, that the book is always better than the movie. Well, in this case, the "they" is me, and the movie is good, but the book is better.

While I'm on that subject, there was one case where the movie was better in my humble opinion, and that is Lord of The Rings, in one sense. In another, I would have appreciated it more, and not been so suspicious, had the only black people in the movie not been the orcs. Peter Jackson, what were you trying to say? Huh?

For some reason, as I'm reading this book, I'm having a huge sense of deja-vu. Now I know I watched the movie, but I keep thinking that all the stuff I'm reading couldn't have been in the movie. There are two possible explanations. One that I read the book before, but then why do I not remember having read it? The other is that the movie was done really well.

Anyway, I love when an author gives such life to the characters! Also love it when they change the narrators in every chapter. That way I get to hear the thoughts of all the characters, and end up with a very good impression of all of them.

What sets this story apart from other stories is that the 4 main characters are all very different, very unique people. Their lives are ordinary, yet out of the ordinary. We have Bobby, who from childhood, seems to have a personality that is dependent on others. It's as if he needs other people to prove to himself that he is alive. Then there's Jonathan who hasn't been in love with anyone since he's been in love with Bobby when they were children. Having said that, he's in a strange platonic relationship with Claire, an older woman, and they're planning to have a baby, even though they're not doing anything about it since he's gay. The three of them enter into a relationship, and decide to raise a child. This book and film is about people living their lives unconventionally, and making no excuses about it. It's about living your dream, and doing what you think is best for yourself, first. And also, about what happens when you don't.

The movie stars Colin Farrell as Bobby, and Robin Wright-Penn as Claire. Good performances from both of them, and the third unknown (to me) guy who played Jonathan.
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LibraryThing member lsknightsr1
This was a strange little book. I enjoyed it, because the characters were interesting and well written, but the whole plot was a little ...umm...different. Maybe it's because I lead a sheltered life and have never been around the kinds of subcultures this book discusses. It was hard for me to
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understand the life of a bi-sexual man, his gay friend, and their straight female roomate. To say that the relationships got a tad complicated in this book would be an understatement. But honestly, I did enjoy it. It opened my mind to new things and sub-cultures and because of that I give it 3 stars.
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LibraryThing member debnance
Cunningham uses many of thesame themes and elements inA Home at the End of the Worldhe would later reusein The Hours including mom-son relationships, gay relationships,the lost feeling in modern life,death, and the joy of living inthe moment.
LibraryThing member sturlington
Cunningham’s first novel doesn’t have the polish or complexity of The Hours or Specimen Days but is still very readable. It is typical first-novel stuff: a coming-of-age story about two boys—one homosexual, the other damaged by the violent death of his brother—who form a lifelong bond and
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even a family with a woman they both fall in love with. The prose was very engaging, but the relationships didn’t come fully alive for me, a problem for a character-driven novel, and some of the situations seemed forced. So this early effort was just okay for me.
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LibraryThing member piefuchs
Does not live up to Flesh and Blood. As always, Cunningham creates complex believable characters. I found the plot a little weak however and part bordered a little too much on the political correct above the real.
LibraryThing member upstairsgirl
This is the first book I've read by Michael Cunningham, and I was just blown away. His sentences are amazing and his characters are heartbreakingly complicated and messed up. I didn't want the story to end; I didn't want to leave the characters alone for a second. I think I liked it too much to
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really be coherent or critical about why just yet, but it was wonderful and I can't recommend it strongly enough.
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LibraryThing member Lindsayg
This was beautifully written. Cunningham has a wonderful way with language. It's the story of two men, one gay and one not, who both love the same woman. The three of them move in together and decide to raise a baby as a family. Lots of good stuff here about the nature of love and relationships and
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how families work. One thing I took away from it, which may or may not have been the author's intent, is that you can spend you entire life trying to figure out who you are and how to be happy.
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LibraryThing member anneearney
I'm on a Michael Cunningham kick - I read The Hours years ago and liked it, but not enough to seek out his other work. Then I listened to By Nightfall and loved it, so much so that I followed that one with this one, which is also very good. I love the richness and depth of the characters, how
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they're totally believable yet such strong individuals as to be not quite like anyone I've known. The audio version is read by multiple readers (the book is told from the rotating viewpoints of four characters) and it's very well done.
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LibraryThing member amerynth
I was disappointed with Michael Cunningham's "A Home at the End of the World." That's not to say it's a bad book... it isn't.... but I was expecting more from it. There just wasn't anything particularly special or interesting about it to set it apart. I'm surprised that it was included on a version
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of the 1,001 books to read before you die list.

The story, told from alternating points of view, mainly follows the lives of Bobby and Jonathan, who slip into a complex love triangle. Jonathan is gay, Bobby is bisexual and their lives are messy and complicated.

The story is well-paced though a bit predictable. I found the book to be "okay" but not particularly memorable or noteworthy.
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LibraryThing member tstan
This is the story of a friendship. Bobby and Jonathan meet in junior high and experiment with all things adult together. As they grow into adulthood, they form an ersatz family with Clare, an older woman, and the daughter she has with Bobby, but they all are her parents. On the fringe of the family
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is Erich, Jonathan's lover.
I don't know where to begin describing how much I liked this book. The writing is terrific-simple and eloquent. The characters are full of flaws-raw and realistic. Description of time and place, appearances, everything is well done. It's not wrapped up in a bow at the end, but that's in its favor. The subject matter may not be for everyone, as it addresses unconventional family, homosexuality and AIDS, but it's tastefully done. Highly recommended!
While reading this, my experience was enhanced by listening to classic rock from the 60s and 70s, and then CBGB punk rock artists like the Talking Heads, Ramones and Blondie.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
A Home at the End of the World is Cunningham’s first novel. The characters are an interesting mix of oddballs and misfits who find solace in the eccentric life they build together. The book has a rotating narrative, moving mainly between Bobby, Jonathan and Claire. The two boys meet when they are
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young and form a friendship that proves pivotal in both of their lives.

Bobby’s world is filled with tragedies and he becomes attached to Jonathan’s family. As adults, the two boys reconnect in New York City where Jonathan lives with Claire, a bohemian older woman. Jonathan is gay, but the two have discussed raising a child together.

My favorite character in the story is Alice, Jonathan’s mother. In a couple small sections she tells the story from her point-of-view and I loved her voice. She a southern woman, stranded in a Midwestern suburb, trapped in the role of a homemaker. She’s watching her life pass her by, but isn’t sure how to go about changing it.

There’s no denying Cunningham’s skill as a writer. The sentences are rich and beautiful; his descriptions are lush without becoming flowery. My issue is with the characters and plot. We watch them grow, but not really change. They live a strange life that allows them to float through the years, never really maturing. I couldn’t connect with any of them and felt like they were all a bit too naïve or clueless to make it far in the real world.

I read The Hours when I was in college and absolutely loved it. Since then I haven’t been able to find another Cunningham book that I really enjoy. I couldn’t stand Specimen Days, and Land’s End was nothing special. After reading this one, I think I’m going to have to give up and assume that The Hours was a one-off for me and I’m just not a fan of the rest of his work. Skip this one and read The Hours, it’s wonderful.

“We become the stories we tell about ourselves.”
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LibraryThing member Lunarwill
Many reviews of this brilliant book perplex me. Some have commented that the action was slow or characters were introduced that didn't contribute enough to the overall plot, as if this were supposed to be a fast-paced thriller starring Tom Cruise (further evidence to me that even some readers have
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fallen prey to a short attention span paradigm). Others comment that it was poor because Jonathan wasn't the ideal of what a gay man should aspire to be in terms of strength of character. Since when has strenght of character been a yardstick for great literature?

Michael Cunningham delivered in terms of breathtaking prose and the creation of characters that were alive--not just stereotypes. At the same time, he captured archetypal characteristics in Bobby, Jonathan, and Clare that mirror the faults and strengths of people in our own lives. Fear of abandonment. Fear of death and aging. Fear of responsibility. Hope for a better future.

If you are in the mood for fluff (as we all are sometimes) save this for later. If not, don't miss it.
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LibraryThing member Kristelh
Reason read: tbr takedown, Reading 1001
This was a book published in 1990 and is a story about two boys who are friends; Jonathan and Bobby. The setting is the 60s, 70s, and 80s. There is sex and drugs. Other characters are Alice, Jonathan's mother and Clare, Jonathan's friend. I can't say I was a
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fan because I don't like sexual details in books. The last part is the best part of the book. I thought the first part was the weakest. The Hours was a better book.
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Lambda Literary Award (Nominee — 1990)
Stonewall Book Award (Finalist — Literature — 1991)


Original publication date



0312424086 / 9780312424084
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