EXCERPT: When Rory died, Jessie’s one consolation was that she’d never again have to live through something as bad. Her Dad’s passing was painful. Her mother’s was worse. The wound of having been cut out of the Kinsella inner circle had taken a while to heal. Giving up on having a sixth child had, for a patch, been oddly unbearable. But nothing had ever come close to the visceral punch of Rory ceasing to exist.
Over the years, whenever a big drama had blown up, her second or third thought was, I’ve already survived the worst thing that could happen.
It had made her feel safe. Almost lucky. But this – tonight – was as bad as Rory, that same light-headed combination of disbelief and stone-cold certainty: something terrible had happened. She didn’t want it to be true, but everything had already changed forever. Once more, the jigsaw of her life had been thrown up in the air and she had no idea where the pieces would land.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys. Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together–birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie–who has the most money–insists on it.
Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .
Still, everything manages to stay under control–that is, until Ed’s wife, Cara, gets a concussion and can’t keep her thoughts or opinions to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, and Cara starts spilling all their secrets.
As everything unravels, each of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s–finally–the time to grow up.
MY THOUGHTS: I loved this mad book about this absolutely mad family. But it took me a little while to get there. About 20% of the book, in fact.
There is an absolutely wonderful cast of characters and paradoxically, they are one of the problems. Because there are a lot of them, and I struggled to keep them straight, who was married to whom, and where all the children belonged. Now, to be absolutely fair, there is a family tree, but because I have a digital ARC of Grown Ups, in which the formatting is less than wonderful, I couldn’t make sense of it. But eventually I managed to get all the relationships straight in my mind.
Another thing that I adored about Grown Ups is the absolute Irishness of it. And there’s another problem. It would be incredibly helpful to have a glossary of Irish terms, and a bit of a guide to pronunciation. Now, I live in New Zealand, so I am going to throw Ngaruawahia at you, and see how you get on with pronouncing that. My Australian husband, who has lived in New Zealand for fifteen years, still can’t get his mouth around it! And I have similar problems with some of the Irish words, and particularly with the name Saoirse. I would be grateful if someone could enlighten me. But please don’t leave them out Ms Keyes. They are an integral part of the character of this book.
But putting all that aside, this is a brilliant read. The writing is excellent (thanks for restoring my faith in you Ms Keyes), well paced, the plot absorbing and entertaining. I laughed and cried, and laughed and cried, and did both some more.
It is the characters that really drive this novel. Jessie, slowly bankrupting herself and husband Johnny with her largesse, frightened that if she doesn’t pay for everything, the ‘spensie’ stuff, no one will love her. Cara, reservations manager at an exclusive hotel, married to Johnny’s younger brother Ed, who hides a dangerous secret. Finally there is Nell, artistic and enviably comfortable in her own humanitarian and environmentalist skin, married to the youngest brother, Liam. Then there is a dead husband, the numerous children, an ex-wife (Liam’s), parents, parents-in-law, ex-parents-in-law, cousins, friends, partners, business associates, Karl Brennan – who defies description, workmates, a barman named Gilbert and, no, on reflection, I don’t think there was a milkman.
The book begins with Johnny’s birthday dinner, and Cara’s cataclysmic revelations. It then goes back six months and we learn of all the things leading up to the eruption.
There is love and lust, secrets and deceit, grief and loss, envy and just about any emotion you care to name. In summary, a novel about people living up to others expectations of them and, in doing so, losing sight of themselves and what is truly important.
‘He’d had dementia and just faded away, like a picture left in the sun.’
‘You get one precious life. Why not try to have a contented one.’
THE AUTHOR: Marian Keyes (born 10 September 1963) is an Irish novelist and non-fiction writer, best known for her work in women’s literature. She is an Irish Book Awards winner. Over 22 million copies of her novels have been sold worldwide and her books have been translated into 32 languages. She became known worldwide for Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, and This Charming Man, with themes including domestic violence and alcoholism.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Penguin Random House, Doubleday Canada for providing a digital ARC of Grown Ups by Marian Keyes for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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