My father could have asked for nothing more than that naturalism make the people fully alive, so that when you read the book, you never forget them. Literature lovers say that thing about the book being a secret handshake among people in the know. For me, it's been that way; I don't usually pass it around unless I'm fairly certain that the person will be surprised and happy to have found it.
Did it make you uncomfortable to watch Revolutionary Road?
The only thing that made me uncomfortable was a heart-in-my-mouth fear that people wouldn't like the film. I was delighted with it. They captured my parents' style and their tone—and their difficulties.
Does Kate Winslet's portrayal of April remind you of your mother?
There's this great scene in the movie where she's in the kitchen: The little girl is pestering her about all the stuff she wants to bring to Paris, and April says, "I've got better things to do than to keep saying the same thing over and over to someone who's too bored and silly to listen." And that was my mother's voice. This was her own kind of impatience: a nice, intelligent impatience. The character could have said something more cutting to the child. My mother was very competent the way April is: She kept a clean house, she did all the chores, and she made a nice meal when she had company over. But in her case, she wanted to work, and my father didn't want her to. When they got the divorce, she immediately got her teaching degree.
Kate does it very gracefully in the movie when she's interacting with the children; it seems very natural, and that did my heart good, because I think my mother was a good mother. And my father thought she was a good mother, despite her not wanting to have the children. Thank God for her, because if we'd been following Dad, we wouldn't have come out as whole as we are.
Were you excited when she won the Golden Globe?
I was. Afterwards, she hugged me as she came off the stage and said, "We did it for Dad, eh? We did it for Dad!"
Monica, Richard Yates' second-born daughter from his marriage to Sheila Bryant, worked at The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, before returning to school to become a nurse. She now lives in Michigan with her husband, a surgeon, and their four children.
Read O's reviews of a new volume comprising Yates's Revolutionary Road, The Easter Parade, and, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (Everyman's Library) and the film Revolutionary Road.
We Hear You!