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The Petty Details of So-And-So's Life

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  559 ratings  ·  46 reviews
With her second novel, The Petty Details of So-and-so’s Life, award-winning and celebrated author Camilla Gibb probes the bruises of family with humanity, hilarity, and a keen eye for the grotesque to deliver one of the most anticipated books of the year.

A startling and ambitious novel, as funny as it is poignant, The Petty Details of So-and-so’s Life tells the story of Bl
Hardcover, 318 pages
Published July 30th 2002 by Bantam Books of Canada Ltd (first published 2002)
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3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  559 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Aug 18, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
Way too many metaphors for my taste and she often took them too far. It was supposed to be amusing, but I didn't find that much that was funny, especially at the end. I'm not really sure why I finished it.
Apr 08, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This began with promise---but fell into a spiral of layering every possible metaphot about broken homes EVER..and got a bit cliche. The ending was SO confusing...has anyone else read it?
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So much promise, but really not much to it.
S. Lynham
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not something I would usually read but the pickings were slim in the pile of “books to maybe read”. This is a story about how the parents of children have such a huge influence on those children. That influence colours the world of each child into adulthood and not always is that influence a good thing. Emma and Blue are the children here and the story follows them from when they were small children hiding in the basement, near the furnace, while their parents fight above them. These chi ...more
Katherine Krige
Blue and Emma drew me in from the beginning of the novel. The dark twists and turns that they faced seemed to spell disaster, but the question was how it would devolve. With a drunken aloof mother and mentally unstable father, it looked like neither would make it through to their adult years, at least not unscathed. Surprisingly they did, but certainly not unscathed. As the story continued though, the thread that held them together became frayed.

I'm not sure if reading a few reviews as I was go
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this one while traveling in Iceland, and was captivated by the story, the writing, and the tender, broken characters. It's a story of family dysfunction, mental illness, resilience and vulnerability. It's sad and sweet and strange and sometimes even funny in a sad, sweet, strange way. The writing is lyrical and enticing; sometimes I fell in love with a sentence and read it over and over again.

The ending surprised me, which surprised me; usually stories about dysfunctional families take a
Anne Williams
The story of a dysfunctional family and the enduring effects on two children, Blue and Emma. It's really well written, but seldom uplifting, and despite both Emma and Blue trying to move beyond their parents crappy parenting and desertion, they barely do. In an age where a lot of attention is focused on what can be done to assist struggling families and individuals, this novel reminds us that damage is often done early and is hard to recover from. As a novel it's probably worth more than 3 stars ...more
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Camilla Gibb has a wonderful mastery of the written word, and she weaves an engaging tale of childhood trauma and the adult consequences that it can produce. Following a brother and sister born of a reckless dreamer and a beaten-down realist, the book divides its time between the siblings, following them both on their journeys. The strength of the book is in the character creations which are detailed and compelling. This is a very engaging read, with characters that you don't expect to root for, ...more
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
This is my third Camilla Gibb book, I really enjoyed the Beauty of Humanity Movement and full on cried while reading This is Happy as it really resonated with me. The Petty Details though showed lots of promise but did not quite come through. Blue and Emma's story is heartbreaking, a distant Mom who is barely coping, a Dad with mental illness and two kids who completely fall through the cracks. Real promise in the start of the novel but somewhere near the middle I lost empathy for the father and ...more
Carrie Froese
Our childhoods bond us with siblings in inextricable ways that sustain us or challenge us or simply confuse us. The brother and sister in this story support each other to cope with their dysfunctional childhood reality - a father with mental health issues and a mother who is unable to cope. They struggle to find a path to re-establish their early connection and support one another. Tragic but so honest.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was a dark story; family was messed up and had no place to go. Father abandons them and the rest of their lives are spent looking for him for answers. You felt sorry for them but at the same time you just wanted the book to end because you had had enough of their pitiful lives.
Sandy Posluns
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Second book I read by Gibbs. Liked both. The setting brought the characters to life in an incredibly skillful way.
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the first half of the book but the second half felt drawn out and depressing.
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story...coming of age in an odd family. Quick read with unexpected turns.
read in 2 days. Number 1 - Niagara Falls.
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadiana
While an incredibly quick read (I finished it in 3.5 hours) "Petty Details..." is also incredibly rich. Gibb introduces us to Emma and Blue while they are small children hiding in their basement, speaking to each other in a language only they understand. They are blocking out the world around them, a world that is angry, bitter, and dysfunctional.

When their father leaves and their mother descends into numb alcoholism, Blue and Emma must learn to cope and each does so in their own distinct way. A
Jan 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian, fiction
I picked up a reading copy of this a few months ago because I heard Camilla Gibb was a hot rising star in the Canadian literary scene. I liked this novel a lot, it kept me absorbed and the characters were real, but there was a bit lacking. Usually I tend to gravitate to novels with extremely strong characters, poetic or metaphoric writing styles, and authors who try to explore one (or two?) concepts exheedingly well. Gibb has tried to achieve this, and I recognize her writing skill, but she seem ...more
Jayne Charles
This book explores themes familiar in literature - sibling closeness, alcoholism, mental illness and shoddy parenting - but it has a highly original feel, mainly down to its constant inventiveness, and the brisk way in which the story is told. The author cleverly selects only the interesting elements of her characters' lives, and discards the mundane. The writing is lively and frequently humorous (the incident with the police and the furry pig was a particular case in point). I was keen to know ...more
I read "Sweetness in the Belly" a few years ago and enjoyed it so I thought I'd give this one a try. This book was no less emotionally jarring than that book.

To enjoy this book you have to be ok reading about people's lives becoming messy and complicated. It's not a feel good read. Normally I don't like reading books about characters who are having mental health issues, but Gibb has a really nice writing style so it was easy to keep going and once I was about half way through I really wanted to
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In her second book, Gibb once again explores the dynamics of a family with parents who should never have been. This time the father is abusive in a verbal way that echoes through the years. He doesn't take any kind of care of his family. He actually resents their ties to him. The mother's true colours first come to light when she plunks five-year-old Emma and four-year-old Blue on a bus to Niagara Falls. The siblings rely on each other and their evolving dynamic is the most intriguing theme of t ...more
Noena Hallig
The story is depressing but it surely gives us more understanding of why some people find it hard to rise above whatever bad experiences they had in the past. It is always hard to leave the ghosts behind. The author has described the emotions well - those brought about by anger, loss, love, pride and insecurity.
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like this writer. This is, as promised on the blurb, an unusual book centering on the telepathic relationship between Emma and her brother, Blue. Their explosive father disappears and their life becomes increasingly difficult and fraught. In some ways it is a bleak story but it is very readable and I liked the flawed nature of the characters.
Oct 03, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me sad. I don't always mind that in a book, but in this one, it was just too much. I can summarize the book with this quote from one of the main characters: "You don’t choose your family, it’s true, but you can’t really choose to unchoose them either, no matter how much you might want to do so in your head."
Vicki Mollenauer
What a great detailed look into the minds of siblings who are raised in an emotionally abusive family. Their thoughts are revealed in such a realistic tone, and how each deals with the same circumstances is absolutely intriguing. The ending was disappointing, but that doesn't matter because the book itself is most definitely worth the time it takes to digest each page.
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I'm biased by the similarities between Blue and Emma's relationship and that of mine and my brother's. That's what pushes my rating from a 3 or 3.5 to a 4. Although it's well written and I love that it's set in Canada, if it weren't for the strong ability to identify with the characters, I doubt I would have loved this book as much as her others.
Sep 06, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Best line :

" . . . every day the person in front of you becomes bigger, and rounder, fills the holes in you with things that are different, unexpected."

There's that romantic again. Cynic be damned.
Jenna Smith
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-authors
Camilla Gibb is a great writer. I read Sweetness in the Belly several years ago and loved the tone and the narrative. This book is really different, certainly in its subject matter and story but the characters are just as complex and fascinating.
The writing was good but I hated the story. It was depressing.
A well written book by a talented author. However, I got bored with yet another story about a dysfunctional, tortured family.
Good read set mostly in Niagara falls. Sensitively recounts the story of a dysfunctional family. Great characters.
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From the author's web site:

"Camilla Gibb, born in 1968, is the author of three novels, Mouthing the Words, The Petty Details of So-and-so's Life and Sweetness in the Belly, as well as numerous short stories, articles and reviews.

She was the winner of the Trillium Book Award in 2006, a Scotiabank Giller Prize short list nominee in 2005, winner of the City of Toronto Book Award in 2000 and the reci