Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The publisher should apologize for leading people to believe this book is funny

Apologize, Apologize!
Elizabeth Kelly

Before I launch into my review, I would like to reiterate that I did like this book, quite a bit actually - and yet I am still going to have a mini-rant.

My biggest complaint about Apologize, Apologize! has nothing to do with the author or the writing - it has everything to do with the publisher. The cover of this has several quotes (5 to be exact) that use words like "lovable", "hilarious", "deliciously witty", "funny", and "hilarious" (again). These quotes plus the blurb on the back (revealed in retrospect to be misleading and vague) led me to believe I would be reading about an outrageous Irish-Catholic family on Martha's Vineyard, those family members that are crazy and embarrassing but you love them all the same. Wrong.

This book was not funny, not hilarious, and while there was witty prose and occasional amusing comments, it was often used to cut down other members of the family! Classifying this book as humor is like saying Jenn Lancaster writes about economics. This book was about a crazy Irish-Catholic family on the Vineyard, but not crazy good; they were crazy in a bad way - emotionally abusive, occasionally physically abusive, manic depressive, alcoholic, suicidal. Seriously, not funny.

The story is told from the point of view of Collie (named for the dog breed) Flanagan as he tells about growing up with his father, an alcoholic Irishman; Uncle Tom, his father's brother who is a kind of mock nanny for the kids even though he is also an alcoholic; his mother, a rich woman who likens herself to a prominent activist and is the mother of all drama queens; Falcon, his rich maternal grandfather who despises everyone in the family yet always seems to want to help Collie; and Bingo, Collie's brother who is his antithesis and hands-down family favorite. Collie tells of his life from a young boy, through the trials of his adolescence, and into adulthood as he tries to overcome everything he's experienced.

Okay, now with all of the lies and misconceptions out of the way, I have to admit I liked the book a lot. Collie's struggles are disheartening and I wish I could have called child protective services for him but his transition from boy to teenager to man were well-written, interesting, and realistically reflective of how someone would actually respond to the situations he was in. I think the author went a little over-board with some of the characters, instilling such a deep sense of loathing in them that their plight failed to illicit any type of response in the reader other than indifference. By the end of the book, you felt like there was hope and questioned whether the situation of Collie's life had changed or whether it was simply a change within Collie that made the situation seem different.

Overall, I recommend this debut novel from Ms. Kelly, but please go in knowing that it is not a humorous book.

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