My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s at least six months since I actually finished this book so I’ll try to give it a worthy review but it might not be of much use to anyone!
This book was unusual – it kind of unfolded, and unfolded some more… and strangely for a while it seemed like everything might become sorted for the characters, but without spoiling it for anyone, let me tell you not to expect many happy resolutions!
The main character is a mature lady (Anna) whose husband (Hugh) has passed away – she seems reluctant to move on, and in that I felt much sympathy for her. She is not close to her daughter for whom I felt the opposite of sympathy – she seemed a selfish, troubled person and if we were meant to empathise with her, find fault with her mother or find excuses for her behaviour then the book failed to render that within me! But that’s just me!
As for the poor granddaughter, a funny and clearly also very troubled child – well that was a different matter. The little girl, named Flynn, whilst slightly irritating at first soon grows in your heart. And the relationship she develops with her grandmother although imperfect is touching at times and you have real hopes for a beautiful future.
In fact, really, the reader ends up having really high hopes for the entire make-shift family.
You see, Anna, also meets an arrogant gay man, Jack, and his devoted partner, Stuart, through the AIDs support group she is reluctantly running, and along with her granddaughter and son-in-law this group and, in part, her slightly loopy (but lovable) next-door neighbour form a ‘family’ in her house.
Set in Maine, New England (another NE book I’ve read – I’m beginning to make it a habit… showing how much I love that part of the world!) this story isn’t afraid to show the worst of broken relationships and dysfunctional families. I questioned what kind of a person would stand by Jack – in Stuart’s shoes could I really forgive, love, and then stand by and watch the love of my life slowly give in to the clutches of early death.
Yes, there is certainly no rose-tinted view, picket fences and Brady children here. But yet, as previously mentioned, the author does not go far enough to make the reader completely lose hope for these characters. Which is actually perhaps the most devastating thing about this book! For what can become of Jack who has AIDs as a result of his constant cheating on Stuart, and what is the cure for Flynn, a child with such disturbing thoughts and questions? And yet I found myself thinking it would all work out ok – especially as the group’s ties to one another become ever tighter. But that is maybe a reflection of my personality!
It was certainly an interesting journey and I remember liking… perhaps not ‘liking’ but being glad of in some way… the ending to the book – I felt like Anna was left with something of a future to embrace, and that felt completely right. It also gave the story the slight lift that it needed, without reducing the realism that makes it so very poignant, and full of impact.
There is insight and wisdom in this book, and also some moments of dry humour. Not an easy read, but definitely a worthwhile one if you don’t mind things getting a bit depressing in your reading time.