Sunday, March 1, 2015

Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald

This book was fascinating on so many different levels.  First, it all takes place in very familiar places in Toronto so I could literally picture just about every scene.  Second, it is such an interesting exploration of childhood memories and the tricks they play and havoc they cause in later life.  It also is such a captivating study of the relationships between parents and children, and how certain features replay themselves in subsequent generations.  Finally, I like how MacDonald worked in the fiction within fiction, inserting supposed excerpts from the protagonist's own novels.

The action centres around a week in the life of Mary Rose MacKinnon, affectionately known as "Mister".  She is married to the much younger Hilary who is, conveniently from a plot perspective, travelling for most of the week.  She has made a living by writing the first two instalments in a young adult trilogy and is now taking some time to stay at home and mother 4 year old Matthew and 2 year old Maggie.  Maggie's "terrible two" like behaviours trigger latent memories of when Mister was two and her mother was depressed, recovering from the loss of one of several babies she lost (either as miscarriages, stillborns or in this case days after his birth) due to their Rh factor.  The memories manifest themselves first in burning pain in Mister's arm which had been operated upon twice in her childhood due to paediatric bone cysts.  Googling whether the disease can recur in adulthood causes her to reflect on what caused the cysts in the first place and makes her face some ugly truths about both her parents.

As an aside, I liked how the days were counted down by Mister turning on her radio, clearly to Jian Ghomeshi's Q opening of "well hello, happy Tuesday".  In retrospect I wonder if she regrets these references.

I don't want to give away much more of what happens, because I recommend you read this for yourselves, though don't be expecting a lot of action.  This is entirely an exploration of one woman's psyche - the other characters only matter for the impact they have on that.

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