Ann-Marie MacDonald opens up

Adult onsetLet me begin this review of Ann-Marie MacDonald’s newest book, Adult Onset by stating up front that I’m a huge fan of her writing. Fall on Your Knees was an incredible and unforgettable read. The Way The Crow Flies fictionalized a very tragic event in the history of Ontario law enforcement in a way that kept me reading and trying to predict the outcome through every page. I love the way she paints the scenery, gives life and depth to her characters and spins a yarn that keeps me engaged throughout. I’ve waited for her newest book with such anticipation that I pre-ordered it on-line so I would be at the front of the line to read it when it was published, rather than wait my turn to download it from the library.

Adult Onset is transparently autobiographical. It covers a few days in the life of Mary-Rose MacKinnon, mother of two children who has taken a sabbatical from her life of writing Young Adult Fiction to be a stay-at-home mom. This gives her wife, Hilary the freedom to bring home the bacon while traveling and working as a theatre director. While she clearly loves her children and wife, Mary-Rose chafes under the drudgery of everyday life focused around raising small children, maintaining a relationship with her parents and siblings and caretaking the homefront. Reading between the lines, we can speculate about child abuse and the normal disillusionment surrounding family relationships.

The book has been on the market for only a few days now so there’s not much feedback yet. My own reaction, whether I’m in the minority or majority remains to be seen, was disappointment. While the writing is beautifully crafted the content is too personal to be of interest to anyone but the writer. In the way that cat or dog owners (and I’m one of them)  think the pictures and antics of their pet are fascinating to other people and therefore Facebook-worthy, MacDonald is a mother who is so profoundly affected by motherhood that she assumes the rest of us also care about the small dramas that constitute her daily family life. That may be harsh but I feel she turned her massive talent into a Dear Diary of boring domestic voyeurism. She’s a brilliant writer and I have no doubt that as her children grow older and less dependent on her, she’ll be able to once again cast a wider net and reel me in. Not this time, though.


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