Friederike Knabe's Reviews > Adult Onset

Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald
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bookshelves: canadian-lit, give-aways

"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.
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Reading Progress

August 10, 2014 – Shelved
August 10, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
August 31, 2014 – Started Reading
August 31, 2014 –
page 60
September 3, 2014 –
page 130
September 20, 2014 –
page 200
50.0% "So far not one of my top reads..."
September 29, 2014 –
page 300
October 2, 2014 – Shelved as: canadian-lit
October 2, 2014 – Finished Reading
February 5, 2015 – Shelved as: give-aways

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Jorge (new)

Jorge Excelent review!

Friederike Knabe Jorge wrote: "Excelent review!"

Thank you, Jorge. It wasn't an easy book to review I found.

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