Book Review: Grown Ups

Irish author Marian Keyes always delivers interesting characters, and her latest novel, Grown Ups, doesn’t disappoint.

The novel unfolds in Dublin, and on various holiday locales around Ireland – and one further afield in Tuscany, Italy. We’re introduced rather quickly to a large cast of characters.

The Casey brothers – Johnny, Ed and Liam – are extremely different, and so are their wives.

Jessie, self-made owner of a chain of specialty food stores, married Johnny after her first husband died young. Together, they are raising a brood of five, while also maintaining a frenetic schedule of work and family functions. For it is Jessie who plans – and pays for – periodic family holidays and gatherings bringing the sizeable Casey clan together at regular intervals … even if this largesse means that everyone feels indebted to her.

A truly enjoyable family tale with memorable characters and great (Irish-accented) dialogue. Pull up a chair and enjoy your temporary status as part of the big, messy & dysfunctional Casey clan.

Cara, married to Ed, is sweet and dependable. Cara and Ed have two young boys. Cara is uber-organized at her job in a hotel, where she has an uncanny knack for understanding what clients want even before they know themselves and dealing with the most boarish of clients diplomatically. Sadly, this highly honed sense of discipline doesn’t spill over to her personal life, and Cara’s world slowly spirals out of control.

Nell is the much younger second wife of former athlete-celebrity, Liam. Nell, a theatre set designer, is gentle with her often spoiled husband, knowing he suffers greatly after his divorce and his wife’s sudden departure to America with their two young daughters. Theirs was a whirlwind romance and quick marriage. But Nell can’t escape the creeping suspicion that she and her husband don’t share many interests or values.

Keyes is brilliant in getting into the heads of her characters and laying forth their innermost thoughts and fears. We watch events unfold through the eyes of Jessie, Cara, Nell, Johnny, Ed and Liam, and Jessie’s oldest son, Ferdia, and each character has a unique voice and way of observing this big, messy, dysfunctional family where the youngest of the Caseys often appear more mature than the so-called grown ups.

Keyes has been forthcoming about her own struggles with debilitating depression, and, as in other novels, she deftly handles characters facing addiction and the downward spiral they embark on as they lose control.

I tore through the pages of this fast-moving family story. A truly enjoyable tale with memorable characters and great (Irish-accented) dialogue. Pull up a chair and enjoy your temporary status as part of the messy Casey clan.

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