As I was reading this, book I kept wondering to myself why it is that I don’t care for British comedies in film. A British comedy in writing just cracks me up. While I’m sure that I miss many things simply from not being British, a cussing Brit in print makes me smile every time. That happened a lot in this book. Once again, Mark Haddon has written an entirely enjoyable novel that, for me, inspired more than a couple moments of serious and honest introspection.
This novel tells the story of four members of a single family. They are often at odds with each other, but that is mainly because they aren’t sure of who they are or what they want in life. As the family comes together to plan a wedding, all hell breaks loose.
George, the patriarch, is a man who has recently entered his retirement years. While he’s building a studio within which he intends to return to drawing, his life is not tranquil or full of purpose for him. He experiences panic attacks without knowing what they are and fears that he is going insane. Nearly every time he looks at his body he finds cancer. He is settled in his life with Jean, his wife. He does not much care for his daughter’s fiance, but he’s even more disconcerted about his son being a homosexual.
Jean, one of the last generations of women who more often than not made their careers their families, is struggling with her once empty nest once again being populated by her husband. She questions the choices she’d made in her life and is in the middle of a extramarital affair with David, one of George’s ex-colleagues. She is at once happy to be doing something that makes her feel good about herself and terribly guilty over betraying a good, if not boring, husband. She continuously clashes with her daughter while trying to hide her distaste for her future son-in-law. When not arguing with Katie, is wondering how she can accept her son’s lover with open arms while, at the same time, disallow them from sleeping together in her house.
Katie is a single mother to Jacob. Jacob’s father was the love of Katie’s life, but he left her not long into their marriage. In search of stability, she agreed to marry Ray, her live-in boyfriend. Ray, while not as intelligent as she or her family, has a good job, makes great money, loves Jacob as if he was his own, and makes her feel safe and cherished. The trouble is that she’s not sure that she loves him.
Jaime is a successful real estate agent who, while opening gay, has a difficult time with commitment in as much as it requires him to give up control over his life and belongings. He enjoys his relationship with Tony, but he really does not want to bring him to his sister’s wedding. He claims that he doesn’t want Tony to have to deal with his crazy family. The truth is closer to the fact that he does not want to put up with the additional hassle of being an open homosexual with a lover at his side. As much as he is weary of having to justify his life to his family, he believes that his sister is making a grave error and wishes he could pummel some sense into her.
As this family anticipates a wedding that is just as likely to be like an erupting volcano, they are each trying to hide and fix their own problems at the same time. The chaos that engulfs them engulfed me as well. There were aspects of each of their stories that struck a chord with me. Most significantly was reading about George’s panic attacks from his perspective. Don’t get me wrong. Those scenes are written with love, but with humor as well. Still, hearing him say that he couldn’t talk to anyone about what was happening hit me square in the chest. There isn’t anyone you can talk to. When you finally work up the courage to say something, you can see/hear people turn themselves on power saver mode.
I am so happy that I read A Spot of Bother. It’s not often that you find a fun book with a great sense of humor that settles deeper inside of you to be worked out later.