Monday, June 29, 2015

"Adult Onset," by Ann-Marie MacDonald

My late friend and fellow voracious reader, C., told me a few years ago about the Canadian author Ann-Marie MacDonald. (I’m the former Canadian, but she had worked in Canada for some years.) I am always glad to know about Canadian writers, as they do not get enough press in the U.S., unless their names are Alice Munro or Margaret Atwood (both of whose work I love and am in awe of). I then read MacDonald’s novel “Fall on Your Knees” and was very impressed. Now I have read her latest novel, “Adult Onset” (Tin House Books, 2014), and my positive impression of her writing has been reinforced. At first, it seems that this may be a typical “woman’s novel” in that it focuses on the overwhelmed and sometimes desperate feelings of a stay-at-home mother who is used to being a career woman. It is a little different from the usual such novel in that the main character, Mary Rose MacKinnon (note the similarity to the author’s own name) is married to a woman, Hilary. But being a lesbian mom is of course in most ways very similar to being a “straight” mom, when it comes to the day-to-day life of mothering small children full time. (I have to mention here that I am very pleased to post about this fictional married lesbian couple in Canada, just three days after the historic United States Supreme Court decision making same sex marriage legal throughout the United States. Hurray for marriage equality!). Mary Rose is an author, but has very little time or energy to write any more, especially since Hilary is often away for her work in theater. But this novel goes beyond the usual “mom” novel in its exploration of the many psychological forces Mary Rose is dealing with, and at times we worry about her psychological balance and safety. The novel alternates between feeling like a lot is going on and then that – excruciatingly – almost nothing happens some days and weeks. Just like real life, in other words. The writing in this novel is crisp, pointed, and vivid. I hope that Ann-Marie MacDonald and her writing will become increasingly recognized in the U.S. as it is already in Canada.
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