Mary Rose McKinnon has it all: wife, home, family, fame as a writer. She’s also isolated, anxious and (she thinks) a greater threat to her two-year-old daughter than their placid pit-bull terrier, Daisy.
So far, so North American. But author Ann-Marie MacDonald – who is Canadian, actually – brings much more to Adult onset, her latest novel.
Intruding upon Mary Rose’s present life is the past: her own and that of her mother Dolly, behind whose WASP-ish name and old-lady coquetry lie her Lebanese heritage and a history of terrible depression.
There are the bone cysts that beset Mary Rose in childhood and that remain as what her doctor calls “remembered pain”. And there is the hateful behaviour of times gone by. The love and pride her parents now express for her and her partner are, Mary Rose finds, hard to square with the icy hostility and “wish you had cancer” curses hurled when she came out as a lesbian.
Remembering is perilous. But “If you forget the past, it grows inside you,” the author’s real-life 11-year-old daughter told her not long ago, and that truth is also central to Adult onset.
The novel, both achingly sad and sharply funny, is Ann-Marie MacDonald’s third in as many decades, and it is just as powerful as its predecessors, Fall on your knees and The way the crow flies. Read them all and pass them on. MacDonald deserves to be better known beyond Canada’s borders.
Title: Adult onset
Author: Ann-Marie MacDonald
Recommended by Claire G, Grey Lynn Library
Claire G reads widely, writes narrowly, pampers her poultry and neglects her garden. She thinks Leonard Cohen was right about there being a crack in everything.