It Came by Loss
Struggling against the tragedies of his past...
It Came by Loss is a coming-of-age story focusing on Pete Gordon. The tale opens in a hospital room with Pete days from graduation from the university. He is caught in the grips of his extroverted and charismatic mother's death from alcoholic liver failure. Pete is in turmoil, struggling to understand the contradiction of his physician father's love for his wife juxtaposed with the father's inability to confront his wife's alcoholism. The father predeceases the mother. The reader is left to believe that the mismatch of the father's feelings creates a clash that puts strain on the father causing his heart to ultimately fail. Pete reflects on how his own choice in young women repeats the story of his parents and he wrestles to develop healthy choices and patterns in love.
The plot surrounds Pete coming to manhood and accepting the legacy of his past. One of the repercussions of being ignored by his mother is she overcompensates and strives for recognition by the credit she obtains in her community while obscuring the presence of her alcoholic ways. Pete faces more conflict by the death of a friend, Alf, when surfing monster waves at Todo Santos Island in Mexico. As the novel progresses, Pete enlarges a lasting relationship with Loi, who is Alf's mother. The nuance is that she has lost her son, Pete has lost his mother and they experience an intimate pseudo mother-son bond that is fraught with their respective conflicts with loss. She is not ready to hear the details of Alf's loss and how Pete transported Alf back to the States. One evening she risks receptivity and Pete describes the horror of Alf's death. Pete's complications are contributed to by his adopted friend, Eddy, who is sodomized by his adoptive father, Henry. Eddy's mother has the inkling this is going on, but is ineffective at protecting Eddy. Eddy joins the military inciting the mother to abandon the father. Eddy is prematurely discharged from the military and returns home with no mother to buffer him. Rage erupts and Eddy is holds a shotgun on Henry, but Pete stops Eddy from murdering the father and they take him to the authorities. Eddy to too shaken to testify, though Pete's elocution in the courtroom contributes to the prosecutor's case and Henry is imprisoned in an institution for sex offenders. The mother returns to the home and Pete elegantly confronts her in a way so she doesn't erect many defenses.
The nurse caring for Pete's mother contacts him. A connection develops, since her father also died of alcoholic liver failure. She posses an experiment that they become intimate and face any personal or relational conflict, and talk-it-through. Pete takes this on. The relationship is curative for both of them and they move on in their separate ways. This is preceded by an old girlfriend who comes to Stanford on Pete's first summer break in the guise of transferring from Vassar. He doesn't trust her, but she works her way into his life, only to leave to return to an abusive relationship with a concert violinist.
After graduation a professor at Stanford finds Pete an assistant position at Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO). He shares a lab with a woman, Valerie, who has a policy to not date men she works with. But they become an item. Pete works with Dr. Marshall Fields at the SIO on a marine biology investigation that Fields is working on in Mexico. Pete and Valerie are at sea with Fields after a chubasco-a violent squall-and the seas are rough with ten to fifteen-foot swells. Fields is crazed to go out to sea to gather specimens and Pete and Valerie fervently advise against it. Fields cannot be dissuaded. In a very graphic scene, Fields is washed away from the research boat at night. Pete rescues him in the dramatic ferocity of the sea. This scene more thoroughly ties Pete and Valerie together. Fields is a solid researcher, but inept with people. He maneuvers Valerie's professor, Dr. Glen Freeth, to have a chat with Pete. The purpose is to offer Pete a doctoral position at UCSD. Pete has decided to become a physician and Dr. Freeth is able to arrange it, having a marker out at the university. Valerie and Pete discus their future and through the backdoor Valerie proposes to Pete. Pete rises from the tragedies of his past.