A PARALLEL LIFE by Ruth Hamilton

Book Quote:

“My mother – well – she just wasn’t around much. I look at her now and I know why. She married the wrong man, handed over her children to Gran and grabbed life by the throat. But she was only strangling herself. I’m watching her recovery now. She is, you know, a very clever woman. Underneath the facelifts, there’s a decent brain.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody (JUN 9, 2010)

Ruth Hamilton’s A Parallel Life is a darkly comedic novel about an extraordinarily dysfunctional family. It is an English comedy of errors that is sometimes over the top, reminiscent of Monty Python or a Peter Sellers movie.

Hermione is the matriarch of the Compton-Milnes family. Despite having Multiple Sclerosis and being wheelchair bound, her mind is sharp as a tack and she possesses great wisdom. She insists on Tuesday morning breakfasts for the purpose of the whole family getting together. The rest of the family is not big on these breakfasts but they attend at her request. Other than these breakfasts they usually meet one another on the run.

Hermione’s son is Gustav. He married Lisa when he was young and they produced two children, Harriet and Ben. Since the children were born, they have nothing to say to each other nor do they interact. Each has their own life, completely separate from the other. Gustav was trained as a doctor but is much better known as an eccentric scientist who studies the potential dangers of microbes to the world. Gustav collects train sets and rents a room from Sheila Barton who takes care of him as if she were his mother.

Lisa is addicted to Botox and bridge. She’s had so much Botox that her face moves very little and one can no longer read her emotions. Lisa has had a series of affairs with men that she’s picked very poorly. There is one loser after another. Of late, she picked a man who was involved in a crime a few years ago. Through a very round-about turn of events, Lisa becomes friends with this man’s wife, Annie. He is convinced that Lisa and Annie have evidence that connects him to the crime and he is stalking them, trying any way he can to find the gun that he thinks they have hidden somewhere that connects him to the crime.

Harriet and Ben are the children of Lisa and Gustav. Ben has a very serious case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and rarely leaves his apartment in his grandmother’s house. He is compulsively clean and the only person he allows near him is his sister Harriet. He is, however, partial to some kinky sex on the internet which has created emotional and medical issues for him. Harriet has put off going to Oxford University because she feels it is her obligation to care for her brother. She has asked her grandmother to build her a cottage on their grounds and is in the process of moving in. Harriet works in a jewelry store and is renowned for the way she can “mend a watch and make platinum shine like an item stolen from clear night skies.” Recently, she is trying to get Ben to deal with his OCD because she has fallen in love, wants to attend school, and basically desires a life of her own.

Neither Harriet nor Ben were brought up by their parents, each of whom was too narcissistically involved in their own lives. Hermione, their grandmother, and their funny housekeeper, filled with malapropisms, raised them.

During the novel, the family will face major troubles and they will have to act as a whole “for the very first time if they are to survive with any degree of sanity.” What makes this book interesting is all the unexpected things that happen to the characters along with the eccentric personalities of the characters themselves.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 1 readers
PUBLISHER: Severn House Publishers; 1 edition (May 1, 2010)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
EXTRAS: Hmm… nothing
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Another extraordinary dysfunctional family:

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender


June 9, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Family Matters, Humorous, United Kingdom

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