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Adult Onset

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From the acclaimed, bestselling author of 2 beloved classics, Adult Onset is a powerful drama about motherhood, the dark undercurrents that break and hold families together, and the power and pressures of love.

Mary-Rose MacKinnon--nicknamed MR or "Mister"--is a successful YA author who has made enough from her writing to semi-retire in her early 40s. She lives in a comfortable Toronto neighbourhood with her partner, Hilary, a busy theatre director, and their 2 young children, Matthew and Maggie, trying valiantly and often hilariously to balance her creative pursuits with domestic demands, and the various challenges that (mostly) solo parenting presents. As a child, Mary-Rose suffered from an illness, long since cured and "filed separately" in her mind. But as her frustrations mount, she experiences a flare-up of forgotten symptoms which compel her to rethink her memories of her own childhood and her relationship with her parents. With her world threatening to unravel, the spectre of domestic violence raises its head with dangerous implications for her life and that of her own children.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published September 30, 2014

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About the author

Ann-Marie MacDonald

17 books1,096 followers
Ann-Marie MacDonald is a Canadian playwright, novelist, actor and broadcast journalist who lives in Toronto, Ontario. The daughter of a member of Canada's military, she was born at an air force base near Baden-Baden, West Germany.

MacDonald won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for her first novel, Fall on Your Knees, which was also named to Oprah Winfrey's Book Club.

She received the Governor General's Award for Literary Merit, the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award and the Canadian Author's Association Award for her play, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet).

She also appeared in the films I've Heard the Mermaids Singing and Better Than Chocolate, among others.

Her 2003 novel, The Way the Crow Flies, was partly inspired by the Steven Truscott case.

She also hosted the CBC Documentary series Life and Times from 1996 to 2007.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnMarieMacD...

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5 stars
444 (12%)
4 stars
1,105 (30%)
3 stars
1,305 (35%)
2 stars
590 (16%)
1 star
220 (6%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 523 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,976 reviews170k followers
June 16, 2022

this is the lesbian version of The Yellow Wallpaper, proving that the stress of motherhood can be debilitating enough even without the added biological weight of postpartum depression. this book is a detailed character study of mary rose, more commonly known as "mister," who is in the role of stay-at-home mom in toronto while her wife hilary has gone to calgary to direct a play, leaving mister in charge of five-year-old matthew and two-year-old maggie. over the course of the week, mister struggles with physical pain from a lingering childhood condition as well as the claustrophobia, insomnia, and crushing boredom of being the sole caregiver to two energetic children.

adding to her stress is having to deal with her brother, who is going through his own relationship issues, and her parents - a manic mother whose forgetfulness and irrational behavior might be the signs of something more serious, and her beloved father, with whom she is suddenly unable to communicate. being without hilary makes her second-guess the strength of their relationship and mourn for the carefree, sex-filled lives they left behind when they became parents. as the week drags on, mister is plagued by the quotidien irritants of misplaced paperwork and her own increased forgetfulness as well as memories resurfacing that cause her to question what she thought she knew of her past, as she also experiences shocking moments of violent rage and impulses to self-harm. and the icing on the emotional whirlwind is the writer's block currently immobilizing her after the success of her first two young adult novels causes friends and fans to clamor for a third book in the trilogy. that's a lot of plot, and there's even more i haven't gone into here, but macdonald layers her details well, and the reader only feels overwhelmed when she wants us to feel that way, in empathic shudders.

this book is a bit of a departure from macdonald's first two novels. while it is still a family story, it is more compressed. both Fall on Your Knees and The Way the Crow Flies were giant, sprawling narratives, while this one follows a single character through a week's worth of time, with occasional chapters recounting the family past through mister's mother's experiences. there are times when the writing gets a little ploddy, and it never grabbed my heart the way the other two did, but there's still plenty of excellent writing here. she is so good at the minutiae of family life, and mister's slow disintegration is perfectly written. she's funny when she needs to be, with her organic-paranoia and "must childproof everything because - danger," but the more prominent tone is of grief; of the slipping-away of the strength and stability of our parents, of the disjointed spikiness of a long-distance relationship, the loneliness of memories, the lies we tell ourselves, the excuses we make for wrongs done to us, and the helpless resistance as we inexorably find ourselves becoming our mothers.

there's a lot of sad here, and a lot of self-discovery. it feels almost confessional, and there's something raw and unfinished-feeling about it, but i think it works within this character's story. it's the messiness of family and memory, and how quickly things can collapse us. but not, ultimately, without hope. not my favorite of her novels, but still very solid.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Ruthie.
647 reviews4 followers
December 9, 2014
Tough review for me. Like so many others I love, love A.M MacDonald. Loved both of her previous novels and think everyone should read them. I was so anxious and excited to read this book that I ordered it from Canada as it is not yet available in the USA.

I will not summarize the plot, many others have done so, but I have to say that I had many issues with much of this novel. For me much of it felt like a Yuppy tour of Toronto, as the protagonist goes about her day she lists the shops and landmarks she passes along the way. Over and over again. She passes the same neighbors, each day. I understand that this gives insight into the tedium of the stay at home parent, but it is tedious to read! Everyday she battles with her toddler and stifles the rage she feels when dealing with the stubbornness of a two year old. Been there, twice, did not need to read about it over and over again. I did not need to read about her dog's anal glands or her blood clots. I did not need to hear about Scrabble so many times... I would have liked to know why her son was so anxious and barely present in the book.

The book jumps back and forth through time as we read about Mary Rose, her childhood, and her mother's struggles with miscarriages and stillborn babies. I do not have a problem with that. Mary Rose's mother Dolly is losing her memory just as Mary Rose is regaining hers, so it all makes sense. However, the story also jumps around in the near, the near-near and the somewhat near past, and that was just annoying. Events are mentioned 4-5 times and then finally described in detail later on - why?

On the other hand there are many moments of sheer brilliance in this book, writing and insight that took my breath away. I just wish they weren't buried in a lot of mundane minutia.

I really had to force myself to continue reading through the first third of this book, was okay with the middle and was quite engrossed by the last third. I wasn't really satisfied with the ending, but then sometimes life doesn't come wrapped up in a neat tidy bow. I just expected more. Although I didn't love this book it certainly has many themes and issues that make it perfect for book clubs or just friendly discussions. It has given me a lot to think about!

Profile Image for Penny (Literary Hoarders).
1,137 reviews130 followers
December 9, 2014
It pains me to say this, it pains me so very much, how could this have happened to such a beloved author? What could have / should have been wonderful flat out was not. It was as though a conversation was transcribed with painful and liberal doses of Toronto product placement thrown in. A women trying to come to terms with the anger she begins to feel towards her kids sparks deeper thinking to childhood trauma she experienced at the hands of her own mother. Interesting stuff right? Not here. I waited so so so long for a new AM McDonald and this one was a total "phone it in".
Profile Image for MrsPL.
166 reviews
January 25, 2015
I loved MacDonald's previous books, but frankly this one did not measure up. It was so slow moving, I kept waiting for something to happen. I almost abandoned it several times. I found the main character to be self-involved, and not in an interesting way. I think the themes in the book are interesting but they were not written in an interesting way for me, and the story just didn't draw me in at all. A disappointment for sure.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,115 reviews1,341 followers
October 1, 2018
4.5 Stars! A fascinating, riveting book that takes place over one week in the life of a (lesbian) stay-at-home mom in Toronto. The book skips back a bit occasionally to the child/young adulthood of the MC (Mary Rose, aka MR, aka Mister) but mostly deals with the here and now, often inside MR's head. It's psychologically rich and complicated, dealing with the stresses of motherhood and remembered trauma of physical illness and familial homophobia. It's painfully real a lot of the time, but often in that way that makes you feel less alone. And in a way that makes you chuckle at the dark humour.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author (who's also an actress in addition to being an author). I highly recommend experiencing the book this way! MacDonald has a wonderful expressive voice and did great different voices and accents for different characters. I could barely pull myself away from it at times! Plus Ann-Marie MacDonald has a super sexy voice.
Profile Image for Sarahc Caflisch.
147 reviews2 followers
May 14, 2015
Ugh, what? This book is like someone you suddenly meet who seems like a great new smart friend who is well spoken, and who will really "get you" over long, late-night talks fueled by wine, but who ends up being super crazy-pants and obsessed with bulls*t.

-Title is clever!
-Word choice and whatevves is good.


-Almost fetishizing domestic violence and child abuse
-Ends up being boring
Profile Image for Karen.
96 reviews
November 20, 2014
I felt it was a disjointed, self-indulgent form of therapy for the author. Strange evolution from the great Fall on Your Knees.
Profile Image for Mary Curran.
473 reviews2 followers
October 27, 2014
Well -written and sometimes humorous, Adult Onset is not nearly as engaging as Ann Marie MacDonald's other two novels. The subject matter, although poignant, lends itself to MacDonald's signature humour, but does not deliver. One feels that the book was written as therapy which puts the reader in a difficult position. Nevertheless an entertaining book
Profile Image for Candice.
13 reviews
January 18, 2015
Very disappointed with this book. Having enjoyed her first 2 books, this one reads as semi-autobiographical and has no meat on it- unless you enjoy reading the day-to-day life of a stay-at-home mom who has put her career on hold. It was a tortuous read and I only managed to get half-way and saw no point in completing it at all.
Profile Image for JenniferD.
1,006 reviews360 followers
January 4, 2016
i am still processing this read, not totally sure how i feel about it, and wavering on my rating (between 2- & 3-stars). so this may change. the book is a monthly group read in one of my groups, so i am curious whether the discussion over the course of december will clarify or improve my feelings.

my expectations going into this novel were not a factor. while i had loved Fall on Your Knees, i was only so-so about The Way the Crow Flies. i really admire ann-marie macdonald for her work as a writer, actor and television host - so of course i hoped this would be a great read. i managed to avoid reading full reviews for the book, in an effort to avoid spoilers or just knowing too much about it. but i was aware macdonald considers this book highly biographical. this made me both curious and nervous.

as i was reading, i found myself wondering about which aspects were pulled from real life, and which aspects were the product of a fiction writer's imagination. this did get a little distracting. i also found myself feeling uncomfortable - as though i had been invited somewhere i had no right to be. so that was a strange sensation.

with the story, i found it somewhat repetitive - i understand, i think, why macdonald approached the story that way as much of the time is spent on memory: how our memories of the past can be incomplete, inaccurate or adopted from other people's tellings. as well, the memories of aging parents are featured, which can be a repetitive and challenging issue. so i feel like i get it, but i noticed the repetitions too much which pulled me out of the story. i also found the end rushed. so much time was spent on the build-up of it all, and then it was a chaotic, hurried ending. the dénouement, if you will, clunked instead of flowing.

so i will definitely be thinking on this one, to see if i can make more sense of my thoughts. my mum recently read this and loved it - she found the novel was completely relatable and told me it was as though macdonald lived her (my mum's) life. that has probably affected my reading too. heh. :/
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,906 reviews1,235 followers
September 3, 2016
Reading Adult Onset feels like watching someone else watch a movie inside a glass box: I can see them enjoying the movie but can’t quite join in. I think I’ve come to terms with the fact I didn’t like this book, but I’m still trying to figure out if it’s well written or not. That is, I’m pretty certain most of what I didn’t like is on me, not on the book—but maybe a little of it is the book’s doing. Ann-Marie MacDonald is a versatile, clever author, and I admire what she attempts with this book. But it just doesn’t quite work for me.

Ostensibly a week in the life of Mary Rose MacKinnon, aka “Mister”, liberal use of flashbacks and interstitial pseudo-narratives allows MacDonald to delve deeper into Mary Rose’s past. We get to see Mary Rose’s struggles with the quotidian tasks of taking care of a toddler and small child while her partner is out west directing a play. Meanwhile, Mary Rose ruminates on her mother’s many miscarriages and the impact this might have had on Mary Rose’s childhood and upbringing. Phantom pain in her arm from childhood bone cysts causes worries, which combine with the stress of childrearing to fray Mary Rose’s temper and set her off in front of her toddler multiple times. Adult Onset’s title, then, is meant to imply the recapitulation of crisis, emotional as well as physical, as Mary Rose worries that she might be following down the path of her own mother.

I had a hard time gaining traction when it comes to sympathizing with Mary Rose. I understand, even if I don’t know, that raising children can be hard, especially when your partner isn’t always around to help. I get that Mary Rose is exhausted and stressed and occasionally overwhelmed with all the different asks on her time. But she seemed determined to take the difficult path and to refuse the help of people around her. Conversations with Hilary that should have been sweet and routine quickly became battles in which Mary Rose validates her decision to be a stay-at-home mumma by asserting her fatigue. This portrayal and the frustration it causes for some readers are probably intentional on MacDonald’s part, and maybe I would have appreciated it more if I had found other things to enjoy about the book.

Alas, all I can say is that Adult Onset bummed me out, and not in a good or cathartic way. I tip-toed through the chapters with a sense of dread. MacDonald’s writing just seems to highlight the negatives here: Dolly’s encroaching senility and its parallels in Mary Rose’s forgetfulness; her parents’ dual homophobia when she first comes out; Mary Rose’s chronic inability to engage with the other mothers because of the age gap; the stuff with Daisy and the mail delivery; and, of course, Mary Rose’s actions verging on child abuse. This is third person stream of consciousness narration, and it just seems to jump from one negative fixation to another. This book probably needs a big ol’ trigger warning slapped on it.

As Mary Rose tries to tread the water of her life and ends up flailing, I’m just left wondering what I’m supposed to take away from it all. Being a child is hard? Growing up is hard? Mothering is hard? Loving is hard? We get it: life is hard. For all that MacDonald puts Mary Rose and her friends and family under a microscope for our examination, we get only those scenes and little else. This is a snapshot of a life, presented for our consideration, with little in the way of editorializing or endings. There isn’t so much a climax as a kaleidoscope of events affixed to a merry-go-round tour of Toronto. I just kept waiting for something to happen, but instead we get more plodding through day after day. It isn’t quite postmodern but it comes close.

This book strikes me as dithering between two paths like an uncollapsed wavefunction. It could seriously tackle issues of childhood abuse, domestic abuse, parenting, and relationships. Or it could take a more humorous tack, smile and wave at the bad while luxuriating in the essential goodness of family and community. Unfortunately, Adult Onset doesn’t ever seem to make up its mind about what sort of book it should be. It brings up serious issues, then skirts their edges and draws back, non-confrontational-like. It uses humour for highlights and shadows, but it also seems to want to be taken seriously.

The thing is that all of this seems intentional. MacDonald borrows a lot from her own life, from Mary Rose’s heritage and birthplace to her wife sharing an occupation as a theatre director with MacDonald’s wife. I don’t know (or care, really) the extent to which Mary Rose’s childhood and experiences parallel MacDonald’s. Regardless, the structure and style I’ve been criticizing are not accidental flaws. MacDonald is too careful and precise a writer for that. She has clearly tried something very different as a novel here, and it just didn’t work for me. Although I think there are some for whom this novel might work, I’m not chalking up my indifference solely to my own personality. Strive though she might to present an intriguing snapshot into this character’s life, MacDonald isn’t completely successful with this story. Adult Onset is an interesting yet flawed experiment, and those flaws chafed for me.

Fall On Your Knees is one of the few books that has a reasonable claim to being my “favourite book of all time” (such a nonsense idea that you could only have one favourite book). It is about as sublime and amazing as literature can get. I think I read The Way the Crow Flies when I was a teenager, but I don’t remember it at all, so I guess it wasn’t as impressive. I admit to some trepidation starting Adult Onset, wondering what would happen if I didn’t like it. Well, I didn’t like it. The world hasn’t ended. I’m OK with the fact that I absolutely love one of MacDonald’s novels and am lukewarm on another. It’s unfortunate, in the way that not liking a book by a talented author always is, but I’m going to recover. I mean, if you want to send me cards and chocolate (or more books), please feel free.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Andrea MacPherson.
Author 7 books28 followers
November 6, 2014
I really, really wanted to love this book. Fall on Your Knees is one of my all-time favourites (and I really liked The Way the Crow Flies), and maybe that's one of the reasons this fell short for me.

Adult Onset takes a decidedly modern turn, instead of utilizing the past as her previous two novels did. It's also markedly different in terms of style and tone. It follows a week in the life of Mary Rose, a successful YA writer who has put her career on hold to care for her two small children.

Much has been made of the similarities to MacDonald's life within this novel. I also noticed distinct echoes to Fall on Your Knees (young brides, dead babies, lapsed Catholicism). But ultimately the threads of this novel didn't come together for me. I was more intrigued by the mystery of Mary Rose's past than her present.
Profile Image for Christy.
81 reviews1 follower
September 4, 2014
This is simply one of the best books I've read this year. Thanks to Good Reads and Random House Canada for giving me an ARC and especially thanks to Anne-Marie MacDonald for writing such a great novel. Mary Rose, MR or Mister as she's called, is a complicated character, a recognizable person who is busy caring for her two children and worrying about her aging parents and dealing with the daily joys and challenges of life, fending off questions about when her next YA book is due. She might be your neighbour, your friend or even you. She's struggling through her days without her wife, who's out of town working on a play. Into all this comes a re-examination of her childhood and old injuries she suffered. Are her memories accurate? How did she really suffer those injuries? What about her mom's behaviour in those days? What about Mary Rose's behaviour today? Is she a fit mother herself? This book brought me to tears at times and had me laughing at others. I found I was holding my breath as I read, waiting for the next revelation, the next low, the next high, the next place to pause. And you will want to pause. It's a page turner but is almost difficult to read in places because of the emotions it brings out, the stomach-dropping feeling as Mary Rose looks back. But it is so worth it. It is just amazing. I highly recommend it so when it's published, grab it. I mean it when I say it's one of the best I've read this year. (And yet another Canadian book on that list.) One other thing - I really wish those YA books Mary Rose wrote were real.
Profile Image for Friederike Knabe.
397 reviews153 followers
February 5, 2015
"whenever the past starting piling up behind Mary Rose, threatening to collapse, the family would move and presto, she would get another chance. She got good at being new." Now Mary Rose McKinnon, Mister as she has been called since her childhood, appears to be stuck. Taking a break from her successful writing career to look after household and her and her wife's small children, she cannot "just move" and start again when the many demands on her seem to overwhelm her. Running the household while Hilary is out of town for an important theatre production, is not Mister's only challenge, however. She is worried about her aging parents and there is concern that her mother may be developing dementia.

In her new novel, Ann-Marie MacDonald creates an intimate portrait of a middle aged woman at a crisis point in her life. We are close observers as Mister struggles through one challenging week, one day at a time. Written in the voice of Mary Rose and as a kind of memoir, the reader follows the protagonist's meandering reflections and recollections of present and past events. Like memory events are not recalled in linear fashion, one small irritation now triggers a circumstance in the past that suddenly grows in importance, raising more questions that need to be considered if not answered. It takes her (and us) a while to untangle the connections and the background to her current concerns. At times, Mister's behaviour becomes quite erratic and even friends and Hilary wonder about her mental health.
As a young child Mary Rose suffered from a 'bone cyst' in her left arm and required several surgeries including a bone graft to heal her arm. Suddenly now, she feels pain in that arm, but, so the doctors had assured her a long time ago, that her arm was totally healed. What to make of phantom pain if that is what she feels? Can it be triggered by long forgotten emotional trauma?

In particular she recalls the time when she was Maggie's age. But does she really remember what happened to her or does she piece stories together in her mind, stories that she heard from her older sister Maureen, of totally imagined scenes based on photographs she has seen later? Whatever the source, these memories are now coming back with a vengeance. Or so it seems to her. But why now? Does her behaviour towards Maggie mirror what she remembers of her mother's treatment of her at that age? There are suggestions to that effect. But is she - and we - correct in our assumptions?

Ann-Marie MacDonald is a brilliant and very engaging writer. She captures the pace with which Mister is being bombarded with the daily challenges and upheavals very effectively. Her back-story, clearly inspired by her personal story provides much food for thought as well as questions about how parents behave towards children which does not necessarily match how the grown-up children later perceive and understand that behaviour. This is not a novel that will appeal to every reader in the same way, depending on their own experiences in life. Having heard the author read from the beginning of the novel, I discovered the funny side of her writing more directly than by reading it quietly to myself.

This is a GoodReads First Reads win. I appreciate the opportunity.
Profile Image for Natashya KitchenPuppies.
433 reviews26 followers
October 13, 2014
I have been waiting so very long (it seems) for this multi-talented lady to come out with a new book. As the Crow Flies and Fall on Your Knees are on my list of favourite books ever. Okay, it may be a bit of a long list. But hey, all I do is read.

Adult Onset is distinctly personal and at times comes across as self-indulgent until it hits you - that's how it's supposed to me. The inner machinations of the human mind - bored, distressed, anxious, overwhelmed... everything we try to hide from others is right there for us to read.

At times uncomfortable, MacDonald nails it for us. The way the mind can work so clearly and trick us at the same time. Even though everything is right in front of us.

She is a brilliant author, and this is a difficult subject. I'm not sure how much is autobiographical, but I am sure at least fragments are.

Definitely bound to win a few literary awards.

Profile Image for gourmetkat.
10 reviews
November 5, 2014
Loved her 1st two novels, waited so long, and then.... this one was so slow-moving. Too much info about things like trying to get the rubber boots on the kid and cooking tofu. I think it deserves 3.5, but that's not an option. I'm not ready to give it 4 points. Feel bad about 3, but when I compare this to so many other books I gave a 4 to...

I actually had a hard time finishing it, whereas the first two novels I sped through and totally loved. She's still a great writer, but I felt like I was reading a book written by the main character. Somebody who can barely get through one day at a time because she's constantly distracted by routine boring domestic stuff. Which bored me.

Sorry, Ann-Marie MacDonald, I still loved your 1st two! Actually toward the end there was a comment that the 3rd YA book may never be completed. Maybe the 3rd novel needed more time!

(I don't often write comments. I feel a need to justify my score this time especially since I so loved the first 2 books.)
Profile Image for Wendy Tomlinson.
115 reviews1 follower
November 19, 2014
I am such a fan of MacDonald's previous novels that I was almost afraid to read this one- I was certain it would be a disappointment, but thankfully she came through and Adult Onset was well worth the 13 year wait. The main character is so relatable, I know she will stay with me for a long time. As a wordsmith MacDonald delivers some stunningly clever passages, that I reread and savored like really good chocolate.
43 reviews
January 12, 2015
I was disappointed with this book. It was well written, but it lacked the pull that MacDonald's other novels have. It was easy to put down. The story didn't move along. She kept returning to the same issues. I felt that she was working through a lot of her personal angst rather than telling a story.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,351 reviews516 followers
January 16, 2015
Mary Rose MacKinnon (AKA "MR", AKA "Mister"), is a semi-retired YA author of two successful novels (which everyone -- her fawning fanbase, her wife, and her parents -- assume will eventually become a trilogy), who is raising two small children in a shabby-but-gentrifying, downtown Toronto neighbourhood. Having put her writing on hold in order to assume the role of stay-at-home-Mumma, Adult Onset chronicles one week in Mary Rose's life; a week in which her wife, Hilary, is away directing a play in Calgary (or is that Winnipeg?); a week in which the stress of parenting reawakens childhood memories that express themselves in real and phantom pain for Mary Rose.

I found the beginning of Adult Onset to be confusing (ie, why her father addressed Mary Rose as "Mister" in an email isn't explained for a long time, and for that matter, neither is the true significance of that email explained until the very end of the book), and slightly off-putting as Mary Rose repeatedly made clear her lefty-liberal-Toronto politics (despising the current "fascist" Prime Minister -- who, by the way, was our leader when Canada legalised gay marriage -- or wondering if it's alright to buy organic tomatoes from Israel -- and, besides the fact that Israel is the only gay-friendly country in the Middle East, how can someone who makes several doomsday references to Climate Change justify buying produce from anywhere on the other side of the world?), and there were statements that just made me scratch my head (Mary Rose was "air chilling" her chicken in the fridge? Do people do this? As my husband was in the poultry -- air chilling -- business for twenty years, he confirmed what a useless enterprise that would be. MR also referred to someone as "a math teacher in Kitchener-Waterloo", and as this is my neighbourhood, I can confirm that no one would say that -- folks are either from Kitchener or Waterloo; they may be twin cities, but they are separate cities), and Mary Rose constantly, inwardly, corrected people's grammar, and I came very close to abandoning this book -- but am very glad I didn't. (By the by, would an American author say that someone is from Minneapolis-St. Paul instead of from either Minneapolis or St. Paul?)

Like I said, Adult Onset is confusing in the beginning as Mary Rose circles around her childhood memories, trying to distinguish between what she actually remembers and what she simply remembers being told. Adding to the confusion are conversations with MR's mother, whose incipient dementia is causing her to forget or contradict her daughter's memories and to loop and reloop back to familiar family lore (wherein miscarriages and infant deaths have been reduced to amusing anecdotes). The cooking and shopping and toddler temper tantrums of Mary Rose's current life are spliced with her own memories, with a third-person-omniscient view of her mother's experiences during MR's childhood, and with excerpts from her two YA novels (which is a lovely and clever trick to expose MR's subconscious). Being prone to panic attacks, Mary Rose often feels like she's outside of herself -- watching the performance of a happy life without having access to its joys -- and when her two-year-old daughter's tantrums become too severe, MR is quick to anger, and fears that she might be capable of involuntarily hurting her kids.

This notion of the ways in which parents (voluntarily or not) hurt their kids becomes the ultimate point of Adult Onset, and while I sometimes felt frustrated along the way, I was in tears by the end and couldn't regret the journey that brought me there. According to this interview, this is the most autobiographical book Ann-Marie MacDonald has written (and it specifically mentions that some of the worst things that Mary Rose's mother said to her actually were said to MacDonald), so it's tempting to assume that this is more memoir than fiction. Obviously, I don't know Ann-Marie MacDonald and have no business trying to make assumptions about her process, but it feels like the best parts of Adult Onset were based on real events and the clunky parts were in the storifying -- like as though, perhaps, MacDonald was still too close to the pain to create authorial distance. I would give this 3.5 stars if I could but will happily round up to four.

Everyone knows that it is better not to abuse their children; that it is worth everything to change the habits that perpetuate abuse. The world depends on it. But Mary Rose has discovered the hidden cost. It is so steep as to bankrupt the best intentions, and the worst part is that payment is due the moment that change is named. This is because to enact the change is to experience by contrast the shocking nature of what preceded it. It is to de-normalize violence; unwrap it like a dangerous gift and see it glowing, hear it blaring like a siren, feel it beating like a heart. For Mary Rose, it means betraying her own mother by mothering differently. Better.

Profile Image for Kyle.
729 reviews24 followers
February 17, 2015
While I did not really love this book, couldn't "find myself" in it the way I found myself absorbed in her previous novels, I still feel that this was an undeniably well-written book.

It is certainly a personal novel. Moving from page to page, I really had a sense that this book was almost a record of events that had happened to the author at different points in her life, which added to the authenticity and, dare I say, Naturalism of the story. I don't know too many details of the author's upbringing and first hand experiences with the subject matter of this book, but, after reading the novel, I am going to assume that "Adult Onset" cuts very close to reality for her.

As with all of her previous novels, it is MacDonald's ability as a wordsmith that takes her stories into the higher echelons of literature. Her words are so deliberately and perfectly chosen that she is able to describe and capture moments of life that other authors often fail at. For example: how many times have you read a scene in a book in which the author is trying to convey the frenetic and hectic life of a stay-at-home mom? It doesn't always do justice to stay at home moms, does it? Well, the first 100 pages or so of "Adult Onset" is such a scene; but, MacDonald describes the actions, thoughts and motivations of that stay-at-home mom with such exacting language that there is no room for the reader to doubt the character's authenticity. I'm not a stay at home parent, but I am (once again) going to assume that most stay at home parents would read that scene and scream, "Yes!! That is my life!! To a T, that is my life!!!". The entire book is littered with many such scenes in which real-world moments are so acutely described that it gave me pause to consider just how the heck the author pulled them off.

Unfortunately, the story just didn't affect me the way I had hoped. While I enjoyed pretty much every word of it, I simply did not find myself resonating at the same frequency as this story. With her past novels, I found a great, cathartic payoff in the end... and this book did not have that payoff. It was somewhat meandering as a story, the pace was inconsistent, it had some strange structural issues and some stylistic choices, especially with dialogue, which were distracting to me as a reader.

I would still recommend it to anyone, though. I suspect that my lack of enjoyment of this book had more to do with me as a reader than it did with the book itself.

Profile Image for Dorianne Emmerton.
Author 6 books14 followers
November 28, 2014
I don't think this will be as big a hit as her first two, as it doesn't have the epic scope and big traumas that they did, but Adult Onset had all these "oooof" moments for me. It's about a woman who's a writer and is not currently writing, instead spending her days with her willful toddler. She's got some hangups and some issues with her temper and all of that was very identifiable for me. So was the loving, familiar descriptions of the places in Toronto where she lived and shopped and otherwise frequented. The relationship with her wife was also so realistic and touches on issues in my own personal life, except I would be the wife. The protagonist is an older lesbian and her wife, a younger queer/bi woman, knows and acknowledges the work and hardship her generation/demographic went through to get to today's relatively accepting society - but she wasn't there, she didn't experience it and the protagonist can't help but resent that a bit.

The fact that the circumstances of the novel closely mirror MacDonald's own life make it feel very confessional, and I felt very touched that MacDonald would be so brave and make herself so publicly vulnerable.
Profile Image for Karen Brown.
137 reviews8 followers
October 2, 2015
This book is so incredibly B O R I N G.
One hundred pages in and the most exciting thing that has happened is that the pit bull barked at the mail man.
Detail and after detail about her kitchen, her kid, her sore arm and NOTHING happens ever! The mother lays down. The two year old is acting like a two year old. A cyclist in drives by her Annex house. The mother lays down again. Some one looks for lost train tickets ...... this is a book??????
N O T H I N G happens!!!
Save your time and effort and read the side of cereal boxes instead of this.

Globe and Mail top book of 2014??? Yeah, nope!
Profile Image for Janet.
14 reviews11 followers
June 2, 2016
Although this book provides a good medium for book clubs to discuss many themes such as lesbianism, difficulties of motherhood, postpartum depression, uncontrolled rage/anger and aging parents, I found it to be a tedious read even though Ann Marie McDonald is a gifted writer. It jumps around too much where she lives in parallel worlds. A disappointment and one of the few books I have had to force myself to finish.
26 reviews2 followers
December 16, 2014
This was mediocre at best - nothing like her gripping, intense previous novels. Mary Rose MacKinnon is not an interesting character and not much happens, really.
Profile Image for Serena.. Sery-ously?.
1,084 reviews175 followers
May 23, 2020
Premetto che la Macdonald è una dea della scrittura e probabilmente io non arrivo a capirla perché è complessa, multidimensionale e poliedrica.
Premetto anche che "Chiedi perdono" l'ho trovato un capolavoro assoluto, quindi c'erano tutte le carte giuste per apprezzare questo romanzo.

L'ho odiato, ho odiato i personaggi e il loro agire, mi sono sentita soffocare in una realtà melmosa e spiacevole. Ho aspettato la scintilla ma tifando in tutti i modi contro la protagonista, Mary Rose - che avrei tanto tanto tanto tanto voluto malmenare :(

Popsugar reading challenge A book set in a country beginning with C

Around the world in 52 books A book by an australian, Canadian or New Zealand author

Profile Image for Hannie.
1,142 reviews23 followers
January 8, 2019
Ik heb dit boek ongeveer anderhalf jaar geleden gekocht toen de bibliotheek opruiming hield. Het leek me toen een interssant verhaal, maar het is me wat tegengevallen. Soms was het zelfs wat saai. Het heeft me daarom wel wat moeite gekost om het uit te lezen. De hoofdpersoon Mary Rose is inmiddels moeder. Terwijl ze haar dagen doorbrengt met haar kinderen komen er allemaal herinneringen uit haar eigen jeugd naar boven. Ik vond het soms lastig om het verhaal te volgen, omdat de wisselingen tussen heden en verleden vaak erg abrupt zijn. Ook zitten er wat herinneringen van haar moeder tussendoor. Deze zijn vaak niet afgebakend. Hoewel veel informatie terloops en soms tussen de regels door gegeven wordt, is wel duidelijk dat Mary Rose haar eigen ouders, en dan met name haar moeder, niet zulke goede ouders waren. Zelf wil ze het beter doen met haar kinderen, maar dat is nog niet altijd even makkelijk. Het verhaal heeft niet echt een duidelijk begin en einde. Het lijkt wel of je een aantal dagen meekijkt met de hoofdpersoon. Aan de ene kant vind ik dat wel wat hebben. Aan de andere kant heeft het boek daardoor geen duidelijk begin en einde. Het verhaal heeft positieve punten, maar omdat de negatieve toch overheersen, heb ik het boek twee sterren gegeven.
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