Not long ago, I came across this article about the rising number of young people living with their parents instead of on their own. There are, of course, a lot of reasons for which adults might choose to (or need to) live with parents. And sometimes that arrangement can work quite well.
Even in the best of situations, though, adults who live with their parents face certain challenges (and so do their parents). On the one hand, there is the old adage, ‘My home, my rules.’ And there’s the history involved. On the other, that former child is now an adult, with adult decision-making authority. That alone can make for friction. It’s a case, really, of two households living under the same roof.
Despite those occasional difficulties, there are plenty of people who live with their parents. That includes several crime-fictional sleuths. Space only permits a few examples here, but they’ll serve to make my meaning clear.
Fans of Ellery Queen will know that, in several of the Queen stories, he lives with his father, Inspector Richard Queen. They don’t always agree about everything, but they don’t have a lot of the friction that you sometimes see when adult children live with their parents. They have a shared interest in criminal investigation, and that’s really the focus of the books.
One of S.J. Rozan’s sleuths is Chinese-American Chin Ling Wan-Ju, who usually goes by the name Lydia Chin. She’s a PI who mostly serves the Chinese and Chinese-American community of New York City. Occasionally, she partners with Bill Smith, also a PI. Chin has a successful business, but finds that it’s easier to live with her mother, Chin Yong-Yun, than it would be to try to afford a place of her own. And if you’re familiar with the cost of living in New York City, then you’ll understand that point of view. On the one hand, the arrangement works reasonably well. Lydia respects her mother, who keeps several of the traditional Chinese customs. She has a sense of filial obligation, and she does love her family. On the other, Yong-Yun does not really approve of her daughter’s occupation. She’d much prefer it if Lydia found someone special, got married, and had a less dangerous sort of job. And, like any caring parent, she worries for her daughter’s safety. The two do have their moments of conflict, but by and large, they get along.
Under the name of Inger Ash Wolfe, Michael Redhill writes a series featuring Port Dundas, Ontario, DCI Hazel Micallef. She’s in her sixties, and the mother of grown children. She’s also the daughter of octogenarian Emily Micallef, former mayor of Port Dundas. The two live together, and that sometimes makes for some friction. For one thing, they are both strong-willed and independent, and they don’t always agree. For another, each does care about the other, and each wants what’s best for the other. That means they sometimes clash on that level, too. Here’s an example of what I mean from The Calling:
‘Hazel smelled bacon. ‘Eat,’ said her mother.
‘I’ll wait for the bacon.’
‘No meat for you, my girl, this is for me.’
Hazel stared down at the anemic omelet on the plate. ‘This isn’t food for a grown woman, Mother,’ she said.
‘Protein. And fiber. That’s your breakfast. Eat it.’ She stared at her daughter until she picked up a fork.’
In a lot of ways, they are more alike than either likes to admit.
Anna Jaquiery’s series features Commandant Serge Morel of the Paris Police. He’s found it easier to live with his ageing father Philippe, a former diplomat, than it would be to live on his own. For one thing, he keeps very odd hours, and it’s nice not to come home to an empty place. Those odd hours also mean that it’s harder for him to check in on his father and make sure that he’s well. Living in the same house allows him more time with his father, and a better sense of how he’s doing. And that makes life easier for his father, too. The two don’t always agree, but they do care about each other, and they have a solid bond.
Eva Dolan’s DS Melinda ‘Mel’ Ferreira of the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit is an immigrant from Portugal. She and her family moved to England when she was a child, so she’s become fluent in English, and adept at English culture. Her family, though, is still Portuguese, and we see that in her interactions with them. Ferreira isn’t married and doesn’t have a partner, so she lives with her parents. In some ways, the arrangement works very well. For Ferreira’s part, it costs much less to live with her parents. And there’s someone there to care whether she got home safely and whether she’s well. For her parents’ part, it’s good to have her close at hand when they need help at the pub they own. And the arrangement’s consistent with their own culture and perspectives.
And then there’s Ausma Zehanat Khan’s Sergeant Rachel Getty of the Community Policing Section (CPS) of the Canadian federal government. We first meet Getty in The Unquiet Dead, in which she works with her boss, Esa Khattak, to solve the mysterious death of successful business executive Christopher Drayton. In a sub-plot of this novel, we learn that Getty lives with her very dysfunctional parents. Life at home is often miserable for her, but she has a specific and important reason for staying. Years ago, her brother Zachary ‘Zach’ left home, mostly as a result of that dysfunction. She’s been trying to find him since then, and hasn’t stopped hoping he’ll come home. If so, she wants to be there and work to mend their relationship. In this case, living with parents is an unpleasant experience, but Getty puts up with it for reasons that she thinks are more important than her own well-being.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons for which adults might live with their parents. Sometimes it works very well, and sometimes not so well. But either way, that dynamic can add a lot to a crime novel or series.
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Treephort’s Adult Themes.