Grown Ups

by Marian Keyes

Her self-loathing was monumental, and although she understood in her head that anorexics lived lives of misery, in her heart she envied their discipline.

Marian Keyes is such a talent. One of the reasons I think she is such a good writer is that her work does not follow a tried and true template. The plots of her books all take their own path as they wind their way to her satisfying conclusions. This one incorporates just a smidgeon of a Lianne Moriarty dynamic. We are presented with “Now” in which several secrets are about to be revealed in the middle of a family get together (one of many in the book). A big blow-up that will threaten to derail a close family is minutes away. Then we go back in time to reveal step by step what led to what is about to be laid bare. Although Keyes wit and humor are not left by the wayside, the black comedy and snark are not as rollicking as in many of her books, particularly the Walsh family chronicles. I think it may be because this one is told in 3rd person, not first person, so we lose those crazy Walsh sisters’ crazy voices.

This story centers around 3 brothers and their wives and children. It also brings in former in-laws, friends, and business associates. Let me advise right off the bat, for anyone thinking of reading this, to go ahead and print out the family tree provided by the author. Without it, I think you will be pretty lost. I was almost half-way in before I was comfortable not having the family tree in one hand, and my kindle in the other. Helpful hint: I also made short little notes of each of the family members’ personality traits. I had to do this for Crazy Rich Asians as well. At first, the family members appear normal good people. Not perfect. A little flawed. But perfectly functional. As the story progresses, dark underbellies are revealed. As in most of her books, despite the humor, serious and painful issues are addressed. I won’t specify all, but the most affecting is an eating disorder that has plagued one of our main characters for years. Marian Keyes’s exploration of food addiction, seems so true to life in all of its ugliness and its emotional toll, that it is obvious her own experience with addiction and depression greatly informed her knowledge and empathy.

The book winds its way towards a largely satisfying or hopeful conclusion, depending on the family members. Not all of the loose ends are completely tied up, and not everyone gets the justice they deserve. There is some mess left unresolved but it is small Irish potatoes compared to the lives that are given new leases and the relationships that are saved.

I’ve made this book sound very serious. It’s also a lot of fun. **5 stars out of 5 **

September 20, 2020

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