Review: ‘Grown Ups’ by Marian Keyes

They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys.

Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it.

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .

Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets.

In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?

[Goodreads]

DETAILS

Publisher: Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780718179748

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Michael Joseph Publishers for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Marian Keyes has a certain gift for writing alluring family drama. I know this for a fact because I’ve never really considered her novels “my thing”, what with the networks of secrets threatening to break apart already complex relationships – and yet there I was, utterly engrossed in the Casey family’s dysfunction. Honestly, it was difficult to focus on anything else for the three short days I spent reading Grown Ups.

The Caseys are completely bloody batshit crazy. Seriously. Brothers Johnny, Liam and Ed couldn’t be more different from each other, but are united in their hatred of emotionally distant and borderline abusive parents. Johnny’s wife, Jessie, holds both their immediate and extended family together through sheer willpower (and the not-so-small fortune she’s amassed from her “exotic” grocery business). Ed and Cara, in contrast, run a totally normal family unit with totally normal problems – aside from the crippling eating disorder that Cara is working to hide from both her husband and her colleagues at all costs. Then there’s Liam and Nell, the newlyweds whose marriage none of the other family members can really comprehend, seeing as Nell is so fantastic and Liam is so… not.

I absolutely adored Keyes’s sharp wit and straightforward style, which clearly lends itself to this type of novel wherein lies and secrets ramp up the pace and intensity until the reader can barely breathe. Sure, the Caseys are a bit caricatured – but that’s where the fun comes in. Somehow, Grown Ups managed to be wildly entertaining and eccentric without feeling contrived, its characters swept up in high drama and extreme circumstances without sacrificing the reader’s investment in their narratives. Reader engagement is clearly high on Marian Keyes’s list of priorities, and her unique blend of drama and hilarity ensures her successful manipulation of even the subtlest sympathies for her characters. The novel moves effortlessly from outright insanity to potent, sober moments that had me feeling all too deeply for the very same characters I had been laughing at mere pages earlier.

I was particularly impressed by Keyes’s sensitive handling of eating disorders through Cara, who struggles with disordered eating and bulimia throughout the novel. As someone who has fought a lifelong battle with her own eating disorder, it was refreshing to see the topic addressed with equal parts honesty and professionalism. Cara’s disorder is never glamorised, even in her own narrative where we are exposed to the ways in which she “reasons” with bulimic impulses. Not once does Keyes present Cara as an object of pity, nor as an “example” of the dangers of disordered eating. Cara is – as should be all characters suffering from eating disorders – simply human.

Grown Ups is a candid portrait of family relationships at their worst. Some scenes had me laughing out loud, others had me gripping my iPad so hard that my fingertips went numb, and still others had me choking back tears. The sheer range of emotion through which Marian Keyes thrusts her readers is incredible, yet even more so is the intensity with which we are encouraged to feel for her characters. As someone who would previously have turned her nose up at a “family drama”, I have to say I’ve been thrown off my high horse. In fact, I think I’ve been thoroughly converted.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended to: Anyone who thinks there couldn’t possibly be a family out there more dysfunctional than their own.

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