Saturday, September 8, 2012

Review of This is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon

    Kathleen MacMahon has written a very sweet little novel, although a few things about it baffled me at times. The novel is set in Ireland, where we meet Bruno Boylan, an out of work American stock trader from New York, and Addie Murphy, a 37 year old architect with a passion for swimming and pools,l and her dog, Lola. Bruno is newly arrived in Ireland as a "political refugee" as he jokes, since he cannot stand the political environment in his home country: it is 2008 and the Presidential election between John McCain and Barack Obama is heating up. Bruno is distraught at the mere thought of McCain winning and has decided that if Obama does not win, he will never return to the US. Addie is caring for her sick father--he is a surgeon who has broken both his hands and needs around the clock assistance with almost everything he does, so she has moved into her old home on the beach, and is living in the basement apartment. Her father can be difficult and is also dealing with a lawsuit against him, involving the death of a woman in his operating room.

    The novel unfolds into a peculiar romance. What brings the couple together is Bruno's search for his family. Bruno and Addie are cousins. Not first cousins, thank goodness, but still related. Bruno's dad was Addie's dad's first cousin. So he is also in Ireland to explore his family history, something which the Murphy family is clearly not interested in talking about. Despite Hugh Murphy's resistance, and initially Addie's as well, but Bruno finds a way to break through the fortress of the Murphy family and becomes, over time, very close to Addie.

     The author uses a technical in the book that seems to be the opposite of omniscient. This reader often felt confused or annoyed at the lack of information, or the slow leaking of it, about the Murphy family in the book. I can see where the author might have felt this was building up some kind of suspense or even mystery, but for me, personally, I did not feel that tack worked for this kind of novel. I wanted to like the characters who are certainly introspective and thoughtful, but thinking about things I felt I didn't quite get. I felt the use of a political election as a plot device might alienate some readers as well, since the author was definitely making a political statement as well, although it was certainly interesting. The characters were original, but lacking in the believability department. Throughout the novel, the foreshadowing about the fate of each was very heavy handed. 

     This wasn't a terrible novel, the prose was decent, if the style was a little grating.The characters were just a little too hard to get to know. Unremarkable, and the ending dissolved into complete and utter sappiness, which some readers were fully appreciate and love. This novel will be loved by some and hated by some too. It is just that kind of novel.

This was a digital review copy provided by Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley.

3 Stars

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