Anonymous Tip: Do As You’re Told, Gwen

Anonymous Tip: Do As You’re Told, Gwen September 30, 2016

A Review Series of Anonymous Tip, by Michael Farris

Pp. 391-397

After meeting with Lynn, Gwen has a sudden urge to get out of Spokane and go somewhere on a vacation. The only vacation she can afford, she realizes, is to go visit her sister Pam, who lives in California. You know, the sister she hasn’t once talked to about any of this. The sister I’ve long suspected she must have some sort of feud with, or irreconcilable differences. And because Gwen never goes anywhere without her parents, she invites them to come along with her and Casey. Her mom seems okay with the idea until she says she wants to leave tomorrow.

“Mom, I’m serious. With everything that has happened, especially now because of Gordon’s death, everything has tumbled in on me, and I need to get out of here for a while. I don’t want to do anything elaborate, just go to Pam’s and sit on her patio. Go to the park. Walk around the mall. Maybe go into San Francisco one day. Just take it easy. I think it would be good for Casey, too.”

June acquiesces and says she’ll talk to Stan.

Gwen’s supervisor and father both understood the circumstances surrounding Gordon’s death.

Is it bad that I initially thought “supervisor” and “father” were both meant to apply to Stan?

The emergency vacation was approved. The nine-hundred-mile drive would begin in the morning.

Gwen let Lynn know where they were going but told her not to tell Peter how to contact her unless there was a lawsuit emergency.

Now we switch to Donna and her prospective in-laws. Stephen is arriving on a flight to Spokane, to be sworn in as a lawyer in Washington State. Donna has arranged for some one-on-one time with Stephen during his brief visit, which is important because she’s planning to make Stephen her method of getting out of Spokane the moment the lawsuit is over. To do this, she needs to shore up her somewhat rocky relationship with him. I find myself curious, though, why a whip-smart feminist woman like Donna needs to use a man as her escape route. Couldn’t she just get a new job elsewhere and move? This really doesn’t seem like consistent character development.

We get a bit of travelogue after the flight arrives:

They cuddled in the back seat of his dad’s Mercedes as they drove down the Interstate, up the South Hill, past the modest houses south of Comstock Park where Gwen lived, and on to the modern imposing homes of rock and glass that hung on the edge of the cliff that abruptly defined that part of Spokane.

And with that, we’re back to Gwen, Casey, Stan, and June.

Gwen sat in the back seat with Casey and read books to her for the first hour or so until they left the Interstate at Ritzville, turning south of rate Tri-Cities on U.S. 395.

Gwen actually interacting with Casey? What is this!

Casey settled in to play with her dolls for a while, which allowed Gwen the luxury to stare out the window.

Dolls would be Farris’s go-to little girl toy, wouldn’t they. Predictable.

Once Casey falls asleep, Stan wants to know what’s going on between Gwen and Peter. Gwen hadn’t been telling her parents any of it, remember. But now she’s trapped in the car with them. Bad move, Gwen. You’re stuck. Gwen tells them that she likes him and he likes her, but it got “complicated” and “maybe it’s over.” She says they fought after Gordon died but doesn’t give details. She says Peter is still very angry with her. Stan tells Gwen Peter still cares for her, that he could see that when he ran into him at the funeral. This is so awkward.

“I saw the way he looked at you in church. he may have run right out to avoid you, but his eyes told me a great deal. He still cares.”

“Dad, I just don’t know.”

“Gwen, listen to your Father. Peter wouldn’t give up on you,” June said. “I think he’s the greatest. He’s got to come around.”

They correctly deduct that she wanted to go on the vacation to get away from Peter, and they tell her that means she cares too. Gwen is very uncomfortable. I mean, my god. She has basically just been told to marry Peter by her parents. And can someone tell me why the hell “Father” was capitalized there? I’m not familiar with it being capitalized unless it refers to God. And for the love of all that is holy, can we avoid mothers telling adult daughters to “listen to your father” to begin with?! Jeez!

And now back to Donna and Stephen.

Stephen is taking Donna for dinner at the Manito Country Club.

They dressed in their very best. Donna’s dress had been a gift from Stephen’s parents at Christmas. It was Stephen’s favorite.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d think it was weird if my in-laws gave me a dress. That’s just weird. I’m not a barbie for others to dress. And remember, Donna and Stephen weren’t even engaged, much less married, when Stephen’s parents gave her this dress. Double weird.

Donna and Stephen talk around the bush for a bit until Stephen realizes Donna is trying to get him to ask her to marry him (something he’s done before, but she’s always turned him down). “You are making this pretty awkward for me,” she says. “Generally a girl gets asked these things.” Farris tells us that Stephen “had enjoyed himself a great deal” in D.C. and that he “had dated a half-dozen girls or so” and “hated to give all that up so soon.” But he remembers that he’s going to return to Spokane in two years, and that his parents like her, and that she’s the sort of girl he’s supposed to marry, so he obligingly asks her to marry him again, and she says yes, ecstatic to have an escape plan.

I have to wonder, though. Donna knows Stephen is planning to move back to Spokane, right? Is she just wanting to get out of Spokane until things have blown over, and two years will be enough? Where will she work once she’s back? Or does Farris expect her to become a housewife? Anyway, they start haggling over wedding dates, and ultimately settle over getting married on Valentine’s Day and having a honeymoon later.

As he kissed her across the table, he wondered if he should cancel his date for next Friday night. Probably not, he concluded. After all, he wasn’t engaged when he made it. It was his first loophole, and he still wasn’t officially a lawyer until Monday.

This is just dandy. Nice catch, Donna.

What lesson is Farris trying to tell here, exactly? Obviously Stephen is a playboy, and obviously that’s a problem. But not so long ago, it wasn’t considered a problem so long as the young man eventually settled down with a good, marriage-quality wife—i.e. Donna. Sewing wild oats before marriage was expected. Stephen feels more like a typical old school gentleman than Farris may intend. Or is that Farris’ intention? But why? What is the purpose of all of this? It seems fairly clear that Stephen is going to eventually humiliate Donna by leaving her. Is Farris simply trying to bring our villain to an unhappy end, when the book concludes? Or is there a greater moral I’m having trouble working out?

Either way, every woman in this book seems stuck in some man’s story. Except maybe Rita, although, to be fair, she was caught up in Blackburn’s wrongdoing, and is still tied to his story, and his fate.

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