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Families at Home

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose

By Roddy Doyle
Scholastic India, 2007, pp. 220, price not stated.

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 11 November 2008

Wilderness was given to me to review many moons ago. I read it there and then, but have only been able to write the review now. It says a lot for the power of the book, if after such a long gap, the emotions still remain strong and vivid.   This is not the first Roddy Doyle offering for young adults, but the sensitivity and sympathy with which he writes this novel is astounding. It probably is not easy to write like this, but the story flows beautifully. It’s a story about the Griffin family. Tom and Johnny are young boys who are taken away on a holiday by their mother Sandra to Lapland, while their teenaged half-sister, Grainne prepares to meet her mother Rosemary. Their father Frank suggests this trip for the boys so that their sister is given space, confidence and emotional support to meet her mother after over a decade. Frank and Rosemary divorced while Grainne was a little girl of five and Rosemary opted to move to New York. Soon thereafter, Frank met Sandra and married her. Grainne and Rosemary got along very well, but then the teens hit. Also, the boys were born.   Wilderness is an apt description of a modern day young family growing up and of the conflicting emotions therein, which are complicated by the warmth and love everyone shares. For instance, it’s been a strenuous time in the family recently, as Grainne has been the typical sullen, loud music blaring teenager who is convinced that no one loves her anymore except her natural mother, Rosemary. It is at such a time, that Sandra returns home from work and ‘found the three of them, Johnny, Tom, and Grainne, watching the telly. They were all on the couch, long legs and arms all over the place. It was the sweetest thing that she’d seen in a long time. But Grainne saw her looking at them. She took back her arms and legs, stood up and walked out of the room, past Sandra. Black eyes, black lips in a sneer that would have been funny on someone else’s daughter – stepdaughter.’ (p.20) Later when Grainne meets her mother, Rosemary at the airport, ‘she’d expected it to feel right. But, now she felt nothing. It was like there was a wall in the way. Waiting had been much easier.’ Towards the end of ...

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