Eunice is the main character, and has her journey set out for her amidst a flurry of emotions, personalities and individuals, during the late 1950s through the 1960s. The characters that Eunice becomes involved with have their flaws, and Kushner depicts these individuals quite capably. Flaws do not necessarily mean negativity, but rather a step in the journey of lessons learned and a path towards maturity. They can bring insight into developing mindsets. We are human, and are all flawed in some manner.
Her father left the family, and she has been raised by her mother, Mern, a woman who idolizes the glory of stardom and beautiful clothes, and runs from one man to the next specifically a new boyfriend, named Sam. He tries to be a caring individual, but she will not have him as a father figure. She craves her biological father.
Eunice has not separated from her biological father, emotionally, and constantly dreams of him returning to the family. She has imaginary conversations with him and he becomes the idol of her imagination and of her life. When he does make an appearance it is not what she expected. She is left with having to decide where her loyalty lies, one man over the other. She is too young and immature to understand the true concept of love, that you can love more than one person as a father figure or dominant life force.
Her life moves from her mother to a caretaker type of person named Rose, to a boyfriend named Fox. The various individuals in Eunice’s life offer her a sense of security through their love for her. She doesn’t always see it that way.
Maturity and insight normally require an understanding and sense of Self, and the hindsight of previous paths taken, whether unsuccessfully or not.
The title implies that love requires conditions, in the sense of love being a conditional entity (one person requiring another to act a certain way, or do a specific thing in order to gain the love of the one requiring the action/s). It also implies an undertone of loyalty.
But, if the reader looks at the title and its meaning in a different light, a more reflective one, then he or she can see that unconditional love also requires a condition or two. Of course, the condition/s are not the same as the ones regarding conditional love.
Unconditional love implies just that…the love of one for another is not based on actions, but is based on love for another without any condition attached to it. The condition that is not necessary is the fact that nothing is required of the one who loves another, unconditionally. That requires extraordinary control. It also requires the knowledge that love is not something that can be removed so readily or replaced so easily. You can not replace one love with another. It just doesn’t work that way, in reality.
Eunice takes the long road for her journey, and moves through people and their love for her in an almost indifferent manner, at times. She is quick to resist love that has been showered on her, unconditionally. Loyalties get in the way.
From childhood to young adulthood, Eunice is thrown into situations that are in conflict with each other. Love of the natural order of things, such as land and nature conflict with love for the superficiality of movie stars and stardom, clothes, and things that do not realistically define the underlying Being of a person. The Conditions of Love is almost an existential telling of a young girl’s coming of age.
Dale M. Kushner understands this, and writes with flowing prose and lovely word-images to bring the reader a subject that each person can identify with. Love, in all of its glory is a complicated issue, and not something to be taken lightly.
I enjoyed watching Eunice grow, emotionally, into the woman she became. The Conditions of Love, by Dale Kushner is a book I recommend.