Book Review: Lou’s Homecoming by Stephan A. Onisick

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“SOMETIMES, art echoes life. The uncanny death of the guest actor in the episode (Remember Me from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman)resonated deeply within me. It paralleled the deaths of my father and half-brother, Lou.”

Stephan works as a Sharepoint Developer with Analytical Mechanics Associate contracted to NASA’s International Space Station in Huntsville. This story goes back twenty years to 1997 when the first episode of “Lou’s Homecoming” was written. Twenty years down the line the draft was revisited, expanded and finally published as an ebook.

It was January 1989. Our author was 38, married and living in Birmingham, Alabama when he received an unexpected call from someone called Lou Onisick claiming to be a relative. Stephan’s father had been born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania in 1912. He had worked down the coal mines. His parents had come from Ukraine and they lived in a Polish community. It seemed that the father had been married before and Stephan was aware of having a half-brother called John.

The father had Parkinson’s disease and dementia and was living in a nursing home in West Virginia in declining health. Lou had been trying to contact his father. He was 8 when his father left home. He was now 54. Father had provided some child support for Lou and his brother Bill which “could never have satisfied a boy’s need for his father.” Lou was a plant engineer for a valve company and worked in the same factory as his brother Bill, outside of Charlotte.

Stephan was protective of his mother initially who he described as a worrier and a doom and gloomer. He didn’t want to mention his newly acquired half-brothers until they had made further contact and planned a visit which was arranged weeks later. Photos were exchanged and a few calls made.

The meeting of this extended family caused nerves and anxiety as well as excitement for Stephan and no doubt the others. Although Stephan describes his family in a positive way he seems more at ease with the family pets. “Dogs may be the best part of our shared hereditary.” He informs us of his preference for dogs rather than people. Perhaps it’s just this: “Their needs are simple, and their agendas are hilariously obvious.”

We are told about Lou’s “uncanny” resemblance to his father, although he was slightly taller and more gentle. He was reserved but also described as being a devoted father and husband which Stephan states was not an Onisick inherited trait! We are told that he was loved and well-respected in his community.

As you might expect, the family reunion proved to be an emotional experience considering that Lou had not seen his father for over 45 years. Father was “conscious in spurts” but seemed to recognize Lou who he described as a firecracker which made Lou cry and the others were choked up emotionally. Peggy, his daughter told Stephan that Lou was a forgiving person and very even-tempered.

“He didn’t have a father model, but yet he became a model father.” The ending is inevitably sad but there is a sense of closure and with that, a feeling of satisfaction and forgiveness when we are told that he “had made peace with his past.”

“Lou had the magnanimity to forgive a father who abandoned him.” Perfectly readable but short. It is difficult to engage with Lou sadly because he seems flimsy and it would have been better to have discovered much more about the reasoning behind seeing father before he died and making his peace after such a long time. When you read the story you’ll understand the significance of “homecoming”

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