Monday, 19 October 2015

Book Review: Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald

By Ann-Marie MacDonald
Published by Sceptre
Available in paperback and ebook

I immediately wanted to read Adult Onset as soon as I read Sara’s review, earlier on in the year. You should go and read the review too, and you’ll probably find yourself heading to your nearest bookshop. Luckily I was sent a copy for review, and instead of putting it on the to-be-read pile, I bent back the spine and started immediately – I wasn’t disappointed.

Adult Onset, Ann-Marie MacDonald’s third and semi-autobiographical novel, tells the story of Mary Rose during an intense week of looking after her two children while her wife, Hilary is away with work. Mary Rose has put her writing career to bring up their adopted son, and their daughter, carried by Hilary, and the cracks of being a stay-at-home mother are starting to show.

This is a novel about push and pull of motherhood and families, and the struggles Mary Rose faces as she consciously tries to avoid the mistakes she thinks her mother made while she was growing up. She struggles to maintain an exterior of calm and normality like she sees in the playground in the other mothers. These unsettling feelings about the life she is leading are knocking her off kilter. MacDonald peels away the layers of domestic life, revealing the pain but also the humour in everyday family life.

MacDonald explores the way the past informs the present. Mary Rose’s thoughts about the root cause of the bone cysts in her arm, from her childhood go round and round on a loop, with her fear of hurting her children and a deep anger threatening to ruin her life. She fears her family are hiding a secret even though they are so very open about her mother’s miscarriages and stillborn children. They even tell Mary Rose that the baby who was born and died before her was meant to be the first Mary Rose. This Mary Rose, the one with a family, is not the original one, and this haunts her.

This raw and powerful look into family life reminded me of Dept. of Speculation and the way the characters try to maintain a veneer of perfection to the outside world but the undercurrents of a troubled past are fracturing the present. Both books are an uneasy, unsettling read but they absorb the reader completely into the lives of the characters.

Flashbacks to her childhood, and to her Mother’s past show two characters who have the full of pressure of life on their shoulders, as well as a splintered relationship between mother and daughter.

Adult Onset is definitely one of my top reads for this year. You can buy Adult Onset from your nearest bookshop.

I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr.

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