Sunday 22 April 2018

Havoc of male mid-life crisis

Fiction: Reinventing Susannah, Joan Brady, Poolbeg Paperback,€9.99

Rinventing Susannah
Rinventing Susannah

Margaret Carragher

A big bereavement. An empty nest. And a runaway husband, goes the strapline of Joan Brady's latest novel, and straightaway you know you're in crisis and reinvention territory.

But, like every story it's all in the way you tell it; and with a background in newspaper feature writing, Brady tells it very well indeed in her tale of former journalist Susannah Stevens whose thoroughly irritating and self-absorbed husband Rob decides he's had enough of the rat race and takes himself off to Thailand to 'find himself', leaving his wife - still mourning the loss of her mother and the departure of their twin daughters to New York - bereft and bewildered.

Help comes from Katie, the features editor of a national daily who, having learned of Susannah's predicament offers her a gig relating her trials and tribulations in a column titled 'My husband left me for a campervan'. Susannah agrees on the proviso that a pen name be used. Which is all very well until editor Katie forgets about Susannah's nom de plume directive, and before she knows it, the reading public - which of course includes her twin daughters - knows all about Rob's defection. Cue panic and consternation as the twins begin Skyping on a loop - not, as you might expect, to comfort their sadly abandoned mother, but to berate her for letting their poor, deluded dad off on his male menopausal jaunt in the first place, and then having the nerve to broadcast it in a national daily.

The old Susannah would, of course, buckle under such pressure, quit her job and cajole her errant husband home. But the new Susannah is not so easily cowed. Then, as suddenly as he took off, Rob returns, stricken with a nasty tropical disease and expecting round-the-clock TLC.

The twins immediately come home to fuss over their dad. Almost overnight, Susannah finds herself back in her old role. But does she still want it...?

Pithy and succinct, Brady's journalistic skills are manifest in every line of this engaging and well-crafted tale.

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