2 June 2012
Book Review: This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon
This is where it begins.
The coast of Dublin.
This is why it begins.
Bruno, an American, has come to Ireland to search for his roots. Addie, an out-of-work architect, is recovering from heartbreak while taking care of her infirm father. When their worlds collide, they experience a connection unlike any they've previously felt, but soon their newfound love will be tested in ways they never imagined possible.
This is how it ends . . .
A story you will never forget."
This is a book I was quite curious to read, because it's been very hyped up since it's release and success in Ireland, so when I received a review copy of it from Little, Brown I was eager to start it and see if it would live up to the hype surrounding it. It certainly didn't seem like Chick Lit, more what I would personally term 'women's fiction' - something perhaps a bit more serious but nonetheless one aimed at female readers. I thought the cover was beautiful straight away, and now I've read the book I understand the more which is great. This is Kathleen MacMahon's debut novel, and while it had a strong story with some well written characters, I did find the book dragged on a bit for me, and I was a little shocked and found the ending a little strange, abrupt and after finishing it, I'm still left wondering about it.
Firstly, we meet Addie, who is in her 40's and caring for her doctor father who has managed to break his wrists and is in plaster casts. Neither particularly likes the arrangement but realises its the best thing for both of them. She's not had much luck in her love life, and after a particularly stressful time, she loves nothing more than an early morning swim at the beach, and stroll with her beloved dog Lola. Bruno, a 50 something American who recently lost his job at US bank Lehman Brothers, decides to travel to the country of his heritage, Ireland, and find his relatives. The pair find a spark immediately, and are drawn to each other in a way that surprises both of them. Addie's family are pleased she's finally met someone who can make her happy, and Bruno is glad to be somewhere where he is loved and needed. With her future looking happy, what can possibly bring Addie down?
The book is set in Ireland, and I have to say MacMahon writes Addie's town beautifully. You can imagine it so clearly in your mind, from the house she shares with her father, to the beach she and Lola walk down every morning and the sea she swims in. I found this part of her narrative to be enjoyable to read, and she really brings the places to life in her mind. The relationship between the characters of Bruno and Addie is slow-burning, and thus unfolds slowly within the book, and I found myself getting a little impatient with them both in places. I found MacMahon dragged out things somewhat, to the point where I was wanting to skip through the pages of her narrative about different things to get scenes moving a bit more again. Compared to other books I read, the dialogue was much less used too which I felt also slowed the pace down.
However, what I cannot fault is how MacMahon writes the emotions of these characters so well. Addie has been through some bad times, and through her writing, the author brings to life her pain and suffering so well, that we can get into Addie's mind and understand why she's reluctant to let Bruno in, why she loves her early morning walks and swims so much, and the delicate relationship between her and her father. In fact, one of my favourite relationships in the whole was between her and her sister Delia - beautifully written, and a character who can bring Addie out of her shell. I thought Bruno was written well, although I couldn't understand the obsession with Barack Obama and constant references to the presidential election throughout the book, it just didn't seem to mean anything in terms of the story for me. However, he was very likeable as a male character in the book, and I enjoyed watching him get to know his extended and distant family, and begin a relationship with Addie.
While the majority of this book is well written, as I mentioned I felt it dragged for parts and felt too long, but the main bugbear for me was the ending of the book. It was shocking, upsetting and almost made me cry (not quite though!), yet I felt it just came out of nowhere and ended a slowly developed and emotional storyline far too quickly. In a way, it just seemed totally wrong to end the book this way for these characters, and I didn't feel any sense of closure once I'd finished the book, instead I was left a bit bereft and wanting more because it didn't feel like a natural conclusion. I'm sure this book will be heralded by those who love something emotional and hard-hitting, but for me, while it was a very well written and in parts enjoyable read, I did struggle to motivate myself in parts to keep picking it up, and while the poetic writing in parts worked, in others it bogged down the book. I'm not sure this is worth the hype of being 2012's biggest debut, but nonetheless is a pleasant enough read, if you can get past that dramatic and shocking ending. That shouldn't be where it ends!
You can buy This Is How It Ends as a hardcover or an eBook now.