Us

A terrific and readable story that manages to be both happy and poignant about the unraveling of a family. The plot starts at the beginning with the near-end with its first hint of marriage breakup and jumps back in time to boy meets girl/boy marries girl after she considers the proposal for many months, then shoots forward to post-breakup chat Grand Tour of Europe with their only son, staying together until they return (or perhaps longer!). Artistic Connie marries steadfast (rigid?) Douglas, the bio-scientist and have a daughter who dies on day 2. After groping through depression and recovery, they have son, Albie (aka Egg). Upon Albie’s exit from school in the summer before university, he and his parents travel to Paris, Amsterdam, Munich (at which point Connie goes home and Albie runs away with an accordion playing woman). At the Munich airport, Douglas decides not to go back after he receives a phone call confirming the change to his Venice hotel room, putting him on the trail of finding Albie and (ridiculously) apologizing for saying telling some war-mongering businessmen that his son embarrassed him after Albie made rude comments to them. This whole plot line was a bit thin for me– that the dad needs to chase his son across Europe to apologize for something he said. However, the book rolls with it, and Douglas becomes more and more spontaneous as he travels alone, yet still determined to find his son and save his marriage. In Venice he meets a lovely woman also traveling alone who finds him amusing and they spend a day together. He dips into an internet cafe to attempt to scare up info about Albie, uncovering the accordion player’s full name and thereafter some videos of her playing, discovering that they will be in Sienna the next day. Out he goes, stopping in Florence for only a few hours before his train moves on, but regrettably leaving all of his luggage and cash in Florence. In Sienna, he finds Kat strumming away and learns that Albie has left her. A tussle with the police defending Kat’s non-permitted busking, he ends up sleeping a night in jail then (another super thin plot twist that is critical to moving things forward), finds Kat waiting for him outside jail the next morning who then lures Albie into a meeting via text the next day in Madrid and loans Douglas the cash he needs to get back to Florence for his stuff. Albie and Douglas clash at the Prado, somehow Douglas finds the “right words” (they didn’t seem too inspired to me) and all of a sudden Albie’s his son again. They go to Barcelona, Douglas gets bitten by jellyfish and then has multiple heart attacks, surgery for a stent the next day, wakes up with Connie at his side. A beautiful 10 days spent together recuperating in Barca, then home. Spoiler alert, she leaves him and (inexplicably) gets back together with the ex she had broken up with the night she met Douglas. Oh, and Albie’s gay.
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Reco’d by Maggie, who has a talent for sussing out books that one devours in a single sitting.