Running in the Family (memoir)

Running in the Family (memoir)

"Running in the Family" is a memoir, written in post-modern style, by Michael Ondaatje. It deals with his return to his native island of Sri Lanka in the late 1970s. It also deals with his family. Much of the focus falls on his father Mervyn Ondaatje and his scandalous drunken antics. Michael's grandmother Lalla is another family member that gets plenty of time in the spotlight. Many themes are explored in the lives of his family, particularly luxurious frivolity (especially in the 1920s) and alcoholism. The book often seems to blur the lines of fiction and history by offering diverse accounts of certain incidents and retellings of isolated events about which the author couldn't logically know so many intimate details. It is ultimately about a man's quest to reconcile himself with the father he scarcely knew and come to terms with the loss of not knowing that man.

Ondaatje writes, "A literary work is a communal act. [...] I must confess that the book is not a history but a portrait or 'gesture.' [...] In Sri Lanka a well-told lie is worth a thousand facts."

Significant people mentioned

* Michael Ondaatje – He is the author of the memoir and thus the narrator. He was born in Sri Lanka and at the time of the recounting, lives in Canada.
* Mervyn Ondaatje – Michael's father; an alcoholic
* Lalla – Michael's maternal grandmother; swept away in a flood. Close with nature. "My Grandmother died in the blue arms of a jacaranda tree. She could read thunder." She claimed to have been born outdoors. Different.
* Philip – Lalla's husband; Bought the "Palm Lodge" in the heart of Colombo and began a dairy. He died shortly thereafter, when Lalla was not yet thirty.
* Doris Gratiaen – Doris is Michael's mother. She and Mervyn met because her brother was good friends with Mervyn. They were married for fourteen years. She later divorced Mervyn, and he remarried.


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