Happy Publication Day to Tom Winter for Arms Wide Open….here’s my thoughts:
Jack and Meredith are non-identical twins; the only similarity between them is their lives rapidly falling apart. Jack’s high-flying career in advertising has crashed and burned. Meredith’s world is also crumbling – a decomposing yogurt in her fridge now a symbol of her failed marriage. Her children, Jemima and Luke, offer little support, too consumed with the worlds of online dating and amateur taxidermy.
All their lives, Jack and Meredith believed their father to be dead. One day, a throwaway comment leads Jack to question this, but with their mother fading ever-deeper into the grip of dementia, answers are hard to come by. As revelations start to untangle, the twins soon learn that what you seek is not always what you find.
Having read Tom Winter’s first novel Lost & Found (review here) I was really looking forward to reading this and I wasn’t disappointed. Thanks so much to Grace at Constable & Robinson for sending me a copy for review.
There were lots of characters to familiarise myself with and I did get a bit lost of who’s who at the start. On the outside we see what seems to be a normal family which could have had the potential to be a bit boring but because its so heartfeltly written as you read on you see things are unravelling at the seams.
Meredith and Jack are twins but therein the similarity ends, their lives are poles apart. With a mother suffering from dementia and the prospect of an hereditary gene, the revelation that their parentage is not as they thought this is a drama waiting to happen with the first twist being revealed in the first couple of chapters.
Jack and Meredith’s characters are well supported with those you may love or hate. Firstly, I thought Jemima was an absolute vile child – all a teenager’s worst traits imaginable are wrapped up in this girl. Luke is a little non-descript, I didn’t feel strongly about him either way. At least Edna had a bit of a personality about her, bless her! And as for John, well he was just a disappointment is so many ways. All the characters are totally engageable, they all feel like someone you know or could just be a family down your street; however you never know what’s going on behind closed doors!
The time line flipping back and forth was a bit random and at times there were cliffhangers in the previous chapters and I was eager to find out what happens but I then found myself thirty years ago but to be fair it gives us the insight into the family’s past we need and why Jack & Meredith’s mother is the way she is and the relationships she has with her children.
Some of the chapters have titles such as: Buried Secrets and Fears and distractions which give us a little indication of what’s to come and I loved this novel for its witty funny one liners which are frequently throughout.
“Edna hadn’t planned to leave the tap running, but she hadn’t planned to drop dead either. These things just happen.”
And then also when new a new scene starts there are the little headers such as Meanwhile… , Back At Meredith’s, An Hour Later it kind of breaks up the chapters and feels quite comedic.
Overall, this is sad, funny and sentimental and I liked that it wasn’t a predictable ending. This would be a great choice for a book club read as there would be lots to discuss. If you enjoyed Winter’s Lost & Found, and books like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year then I think you’ll enjoy this touching novel.
p.s williwaw – there’s a word I’ve never heard before and wouldn’t get in a sentence every day.
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