Tuesday 25 October 2016

Fiction: The Hope Family Calendar by Mike Gayle

Hodder & Stoughton €10.50

Patrick Kelleher

Published 20/06/2016 | 02:30

The Hope Family Calendar by Mike Gayle
The Hope Family Calendar by Mike Gayle

Mike Gayle is unrelenting in his attempts to make his reader cry. The Hope Family Calendar is the most heart-wrenching novel I've read this year.

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With a style similar to David Nicholls, Gayle's writing is incisive, lyrical and very beautiful.

The story begins with the sudden cataclysmic death of Laura Hope. In an instant, the perfect wife, mother and daughter is taken from her family.

The novel is not so much about her death as it is about the attempts her family must make to pick up the pieces.

Her husband, Tom, is left utterly bereft having lost the most important person in his life. Her heartbroken daughters, Evie and Lola, are struggling in the wake of her death and her mother, Linda, has to find something else to bring meaning to her life.

It doesn't sound particularly uplifting, but in Gayle's hands, it's a deeply poignant and often funny affair. A two-person narrative, written from the differing viewpoints of Tom and Linda, this bittersweet tale offers unique perspectives on how families cope with grief. Tom, quite simply, doesn't.

He avoids Laura's death as much as he can. Linda, meanwhile, thinks she is coping but it becomes clear that she's avoiding it almost as much as her son-in-law.

Credible and searingly honest, Gayle is a writer of great depth and intuition.

It's impossible not to fall in love with the Hope family and to empathise with the grief they experience in this crushingly sad and often surprisingly funny novel.

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