4 / 5 Stars
Lively, strong narrative and interesting exploration into the nature of communication in families.
I was thrilled to be sent a copy of this book by the lovely Two Roads Publishers, and thought that it sounded like a good read; certainly something different to my usuals! For the most part, I enjoyed it very much; mainly due to the FABULOUS character of Granny, who quite literally carries the book into another dimension.
The plot of the book is a relatively straightforward (and sad) one. Jenny and Jacob are brother and sister. Their mother has a stroke, and all of a sudden they're left with a father that doesn't really know how to take care of them. Enter Granny - a force of nature who looks after them and bears a lot of the burden; both mentally and physically.
The story is sub-divided between three narratives; the clear, eloquent voice of young Jenny, who finds solace in relating her life to the books she's reading, then a third person narrative of Jacob, who has autism. We also have the stilted, often quite affecting voice of the mother.
There were several elements that stood out for me in this book, but firstly, I've got big love for the character of Granny. I love a character that erupts from the page, and she certainly did. There were moments when she made me laugh out loud (like telling the lady in the shop to 'f*** off') and other moments that were genuinely moving.
Jenny was also an endearing character, especially when she got in trouble at school. You felt her confusion and sadness in every page. I had a few minor issues with Jacob though. Obviously I was delighted to see an autistic character represented, but I felt he was slightly two-dimensional. As an author, it is hard to 'get in the head' of a character who struggles to communicate, but I would have loved to see slightly more from him. Autism isn't very well understood in our society, and books are a great way to help people 'get it' a bit more.
I liked the three-way narrative structure, I felt this kept the pace moving along nicely. One small comment though; at times it did feel a bit rambling. I'd have loved it to be a little bit tighter. However, I didn't ever feel the compulsion to put the book down and give up, which is very much the main thing.
For a debut book, this is a cracking good read and note to the author - more characters like the formidable, feisty Granny please! LOVED HER.