Published by Hodder & Stoughton on September 2014
Genres: Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Source: Bookworld Reviewer Program
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'I was looking forward to us growing old together. Me and you, growing old and dying together.'
'Douglas, who in their right mind would look forward to that?'
Douglas Petersen understands his wife's need to 'rediscover herself' now that their son is leaving home.
He just thought they'd be doing their rediscovering together.
So when Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.
The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed.
What could possibly go wrong?
If one of us had to go first, I had hoped in all sincerity that it would be me. I’m aware that this sounds morbid, but it seemed to be the right way round, the sensible way, because, well, my wife had brought me everything I had ever wanted, everything good and worthwhile, and we had been through so much together. To contemplate a life without her; I found it inconceivable. Literally so. I was not able to conceive of it.
And so I decided that it could not be allowed to happen.
Thanks to Bookworld for my copy as part of their Reviewer Program – get your copy here.
Douglas is madly in love with his wife – has been for twenty-five years now, so when she wakes up during one night and announces she’s thinking of leaving him, he’s devastated. Douglas finds the idea of life without Connie inconceivable, so he decides that he won’t allow it to happen. They still plan to go on with their European travel plans with their seventeen-year-old son Albie, even though Albie and Douglas really don’t get along all that well. The story of the “holiday” that follows is hilarious, melancholy and reflective, as Douglas also shares the history of his and Connie’s marriage and reflects on where he might have gone wrong along the way.
The travel part of this book is just hilarious – the situations the family get into along the way are just perfect and had me giggling to myself at times. Add to that the general witty nature of the writing and this book is up there as one of the most charming books I’ve read all year. Douglas is the perfect nerdy dad – his narration is packed with Dad jokes, only some of which are spoken in dialogue.
Of course there are also sad moments, reflections back on a shared life and the disasters that happened along the way. Much of the middle of the book is quite depressing, as Douglas battles with growing despair at his inability to win back his wife and his son. Poor Douglas – I just felt really sorry for him. He seemed like such a good guy, full of the best intentions.
This is essentially a story of the life of one marriage, but also about parenting and how our children, despite our best efforts, sometimes just don’t want to do what we desire for them to do. It’s a reminder to me that I should really aim to be a loving and encouraging influence on my children, and not try to force them down paths they may not necessarily want to tread. No matter our best intentions, though, we can’t always be the parents we envisaged being.
Us is a very enjoyable and well-written travel story, an emotional story about a family and a marriage, and a great store of parenting advice. This book reminds us to cherish our loved ones and allow them to be themselves, to communicate with each other and make time for togetherness. I’ll admit I was pretty disappointed in the ending, but not everyone will be.
– Enjoyable, but also sad. Recommended for parents and spouses!
I’m going to talk about the ending now behind a spoiler tag, so if you don’t want to know how it all turns out, stop here!View Spoiler »After all that poor Douglas went through, just to end up on his own after all really saddened me. It’s all a bit too realistic – it sends the message that dreams and promises are fleeting and that the time that he spent with Connie was just one part of his life, even though he fought tooth and nail for it to continue. I just found it all a bit depressing! « Hide Spoiler