I think that most of us, are not always proud of what we say and do. Most of us have that little voice inside us, telling us that “that was a bad thing to say” or “that was a really bad thing you just did”. And most of us, vow to never do it again or watch out next time. That is why the title of this book was an attractive one and I thought that I would feel a recognition factor, reading this book. That it would give comfort and hope for the future. And a couple of hours of relaxation and laughter. At least the guest in a program on TV, promised this.
But this is not a funny book at all. I did not laugh once and there is nothing wrong with me. I have a good sense of humour, but nothing in this book was mildly amusing. Nor was there a recognition feeling to be had, in the storyline, because a person like this does not exist. Or if she does, she needs serious help.
Eleanor Flood, will be 50 in May, but this day, that the book is all about, takes place in the autumn before this event. Eleanor has been married for 20 years to Joe Wallace, a very successful hand surgeon and they have an eight year old son, together by the name of Timby.
The first thing which jumps at you from the first pages, is that Eleanor is the most self-absorbed mother, who places her son in the care of the make-up department in a store, so that she can go off and do her own things. And this has been followed up by her giving him a make up box of his own, for Christmas. Only after this, does she question if this was a smart thing to do and wonder if she has turned her son in to a transvestite. She might think that she is a caring mother, but most of the problems her son has, stem from her actions!
Her relationship with her husband, might at first glance seem to be a good one. But then when one reads that he has to order her to make breakfast for him and their son, without putting on a frown on her face, one realizes that first appearance is deceiving. He declares that it is the least she can do, when he supports her and she is home all day. Macho pig? Not at all. Joe has the patience of a saint and a real man, not a fictional one in other words, would have left her a long time ago. Because he is only there to compliment her ego. Like an accessory. The more you read in the book, you feel sorry for him and you also wonder why he has not walked out. But in the end, you do get worried that he actually will and what will become of Eleanor then?
On this day, Eleanor has decided to be nice to everyone and not think about herself. She is even going to have sex with Joe which for her is unnatural after going through menopause. She is of the opinion that nature knows that woman has done what she is supposed to do by then, and therefore there is no more need for sex. But she has decided to sacrifice herself to keep him happy. Her “words”, not mine.
So, the two men in her life, leaves for school and work and she goes off to do what she likes to do. Pamper herself. She was one of those women who loved her career and waited till she was 41 to have a child. Because of pregnancy, she lost her brain, according to her. Everything about late pregnancy, like getting a flobby stomach, chubby everything, but most of all, the part about memory, is bothering her the most. Now, this book was written by a woman. I have no idea how old she is and if she has gone through pregnancy herself. I had my first child at 24 and after a week, I looked the way I did, before pregnancy. For the most part, women do bounce back quickly after their first baby, unless they binge on candy, cookies and other fatty things. They even bounce back after a second child with minding what they eat. It is not until child three, you start having a little bit more problems with losing the weight fast. And if you have a C-section, that will effect your looks in later years. I had my final live birth, at age 43, and even if I did not bounce back in a week, a year later I was skinny again. Without exercise. Running after children was enough. In other words, I had had seven children by then, so why did Eleanor not bounce back at all and lose her brain capacity on a permanent basis? This is not funny. I can’t laugh at it.
Eleanor has decided to do something about her brain fog though. She has hired a poet who will choose a poem for her to learn by heart. Every week, she goes to see him at a restaurant, where she recites the poem, discuss the poem, pays him $50 for the trouble plus pays for the breakfast they both eat. So, this morning she goes to meet Alonzo. While at the restaurant, she remembers that she is having lunch with Sydney Madsen, a woman she hates, but who calls herself Eleanor’s friend. So she has the restaurant put together an expensive gift basket.
Ten years earlier, her husband decided that he did not want his child to grow up in NYC where they lived, so they decided that for the next ten years they would live in Seattle, then ten years in a place of her choice, ten years after that in his hometown and then ten years in her hometown. Since she had Timby eight years earlier, the author’s math does not add up. But let us forget that. When Eleanor joined her husband in Seattle he took her to a party to meet all the hob knobs of Seattle. Sydney Madsen was one of them and she bored Eleanor to death with her slow speech and boring life, but Eleanor kept her mask on and readily agreed to luncheons and everything else best friends get up to. Hating the woman. Today, she is going to be nice to Sydney.
In the middle of the breakfast, she gets a phone call from the Catholic school Timby attends. Even though her Catholic raised husband has turned atheist decades earlier! How does that make any sense, to place your child there then? We never get an answer. Timby is having a stomach ache and can she come and fetch him. Instead of paying the poet and the restaurant, she just leaves and takes the gift basket with her, unpaid for as well. And when she gets to the school, she is in a fury since this is the third time, she has to fetch him for the same ailment. He thinks he will have a nice day off, but instead she decides to punish him and takes him to the ER. But not before she has stolen another mother’s keys, because she hates the way the parents so happily volunteers for things at the school and because she doesn’t like the keys!
At the hospital, the doctor gets Timby to tell him what is really the matter. He has been bullied by this new girl and the latest thing was about him wearing clothes from h&m and that they use child labourers. Now, being Swedish and being drowned by h&m clothes, since that is all I can afford, I know that h&m does everything they can for the environment and to fight injustices when it comes to child labour and abuse of women’s rights etc. So this was NOT something believable backed up by facts. What is it the moron in the White House says? FAKE NEWS!
The doctor tells Eleanor to take a day with her son, but she decides to dump him on his dad instead. Walking in to his surgery, it is empty and the staff all look surprised to see her, asking her if they are back. Back from where? Well, according to Joe, they were going on holiday. Eleanor realizes that for a week, Joe has gone off to work but has indeed not. She draws the conclusion that he has a mistress and is leaving her.
Instead of spending time with her son, she now abandons him at Gap, to try on clothes for himself. While she heads to a bookshop, to buy the newspaper they subscribe to. She had seen Joe read it in the morning. He had shown distress about something in it, so she wants to find out what, since she had not bothered asking him about it, only thinking about herself as usual. When she gets back to Timby the first time, he has on trousers too small for his fat body, which she thinks is cute. The second time around, he is at the cash register with an enormous pile of clothes, asking the cashier to move faster so that his mother can not stop the purchase. Eleanor arrives only to pay for it all. As a mother, who has lived for a few years in the US in the past, I know that you do not leave an eight your old on their own. That will bring kidnappers and police, if not social services. And you do not let a child go in and choose an enormous pile of clothes in any store, let alone Gap. But Eleanor do buy haute couture from Belgium and France herself, so they are not paupers. On the other hand, what is the point with buying that, when she has a chubby body? And to let a fat 8-year-old choose his clothes? Seriously weird. And not believable.
On their way out of the shop, she asks Timby to read in her calendar, who she is having lunch with. Spencer Martell. Only she has been leaving messages to Sydney Madsen all morning, that she can not come to lunch, that she can, that she can not … Now she goes to have lunch with a mystery man, bringing her son. Spencer it turns out, is a man she has all forgotten about but he has not forgotten her. Eleanor’s big thing in life, has been her work on a cartoon named Looper wash. And for the life of me, after suffering through 337 pages, I can not tell what that cartoon was about. But Eleanor had an entire illustrator team backing her up and Spencer was hired to be part of that team as well, till it showed that he was useless and he was fired. Since then life had gone first down hill for him and now he is a celebrated artist whom pre-occupied-with-herself Eleanor has never heard of. After lunch, she brings Spencer to her flat for him to entertain Timby, while she checks up on some things, like where her husband’s new telescope is pointed. When Spencer can no longer stay with them, he brings her and Timby to his outdoor exhibition in the park where Eleanor usually goes with their dog Yo-Yo. They have brought the dog with them.
That is when she sees her poet Alonzo dressed more casual than she is used to seeing him. She abandons Timby, Spencer and his colleagues, and runs after Alonzo to a Cosco. There she discovers the real Alonzo. Far from being the romantic poet living on nothing but her good will, he works at Cosco selling promotional items that noone wants, like this day selling disgusting tasting fish. Eleanor takes a couple of packages, to show him she is alright with all this, but then dumps the frozen fish in a container with T-shirts. And she leaves. But she is not done with Alonzo yet, since he walks out of Cosco as well and she finds him heart-broken in an alley. He did not want anyone to know what his real job was. Now, he has quit even though Cosco’s health insurance is paying for his wife’s IVF. She does everything to try to convince him to go back, but without avail. And he reminds her of all the money he lost that morning when she stranded him with the restaurant bill and the gift basket bill.
Her stupidity does not stop here though. She spots a yacht in the harbour, which her husband’s telescope was pointed at, so she decides to head over there and catch him in flagrante with his mistress. Only when she arrives, the yacht turns out to be a fishing boat. That is when she receives a phone call. From her publisher, who wants to know what to do with the first part of her manuscript, which was turned in eight years earlier. She never gave them the rest, and now they are no longer interested in her book and her agent has been fired. She says that she has FORGOT to finish it! No functioning human being would forget such a thing! The next thing she does is throwing away her mobile phone in a bucket of bait, standing near-by, and storming off to fetch her son by the art installation. But she walks in to it and passes out.
From then on, the story turns even more unbelievable and bizarre. We are moved back in time, to when her mother died in cancer and she basically came in charge of her five-year-old sister, only being nine herself. Their dad moved them to Aspen, Colorado, where he became the caretaker of an elderly lady’s property but for the most part he went off gambling in Las Vegas, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves and when not gambling, he was drinking. The girls grew very tight, even though they lived separate lives. Ivy being beautiful and supporting herself as a model and Eleanor with her illustrating career.
When Eleanor was working on her cartoon, one of the co-workers made the staff acquainted with a friend of his. Bucky or Barnaby Fanning. Friend? Can anyone be friends with a total psycho? Bucky coming from a fancy plantation family, is used to getting everything he wants. When a girl had the audacity to turn his proposal down, he became anti women and dedicated his time to the New Orleans Khaos and Mardi Gras. Every week, Lester, the illustrator, phones him to find out the latest news from the rich and famous. But Bucky is weird, because he is finicky with whom he associates with. If you rub him the wrong way, his hatred is beyond measure. Through Lester, Bucky ends up at Eleanor’s 30th Birthday party and that night her sister Ivy flies to New Orleans with Bucky, having promised to marry him. Eleanor and Joe, heads to New Orleans for the engagement party and this is where Eleanor breeches etiquette by 1. coming under-dressed, in a short dress, while all the other women are wearing long inherited dresses 2. when the maid is busy wiping up something from the floor and people demand ice-cream with their dessert, she thinks she is helping, by putting out the ice-cream box on the table. The next day, Ivy informs Eleanor that she has offended Bucky so badly that they basically can not have any contact. She has shamed him since the photo in the newspaper shows the ice-cream on the table that should have been put in a fancy container, meant for the purpose. This is what Bucky is like!
From then on Bucky sees Eleanor like the worse enemy. The wedding takes place in the former president John Tyler’s home, an ancestor of Eleanor’s and Ivy’s, and when Eleanor refuses to give the couple the two pistols she has inherited from their mother, having belonged to John Tyler, both Ivy and Bucky are boiling with indignation. Instead Eleanor gives them a privately bound book with illustrations from her’s and Ivy’s life. A gift the couple does not appreciate. A year later, John Tyler is born and Eleanor gives the couple the pistols for a christening gift, since this time she does feel obliged to. But it does not buy her forgiveness. Ivy cuts her out of her life, but does show up to their dad’s funeral three years later. Dressed like an “ultra-orthodox Jewess” in skirt and shirt which cover everything and with a strange hairdo. She has become a pill-addict and tells them that Bucky watches every step she takes, being completely paranoid and jealous beyond measure. It is decided that Eleanor is going to help her escape the marriage.
When he is on a trip, Ivy will fly to Seattle with John Tyler and Eleanor has signed a lease on a house for her. Paying everything herself. She has also hired the best divorce lawyer. Only, when she goes to the airport, Bucky walks out with his wife and son. They throw the book they received for wedding present, in her face and cut her out of their lives permanently. Some years later, Eleanor sees a funeral announcement, for Bucky’s grandmother, and notices that her sister has had a girl named Delphine. The name which hung on building blocks, on the key ring which Eleanor stole that morning.
When Eleanor comes to, in front of the art installation she has run in to, everyone expects her to stay and wait for the ambulance, but Timby thinks it is too embarrassing, so she leaves with her concussion. He has found the stolen keys, so they run back to the school to return them to their owner, but Eleanor thinks that this is too embarrassing, so she puts them in a donation box instead. From there she drives home where she finds Sydney Madsen waiting for her, who has been confused about the phone messages.
Instead of going with Sydney to the hospital, Eleanor takes her husband’s car and drives off to see where his GPS will take her. She is determined to find his mistress. Only when she gets to the location, with Alonzo, whom she has picked up on the way, it is a building for sex addicts. The equivalent to AA. One person tells her where her husband is and she runs off to the city center where the Key Arena is. She finds her husband with a group of people who are going to sing in a choir for the soon visiting Pope. This is the dress rehearsal. Right then and there, her husband says that he has seen the light. While taking care of members of a baseball team, he flipped out, and this preacher told him what was wrong with his life. Now he has found Christ, is going to quit medicine and go back to school and study Christ’s teachings instead. Eleanor goes bananas. She storms up on the stage, and a guard dog attacks her so badly that her arm gets chewed up and she also falls off stage, hurting herself. Once in the hospital, her husband says that they must move to Spokane or New York or St. Andrew’s in Scotland for his religious studies. If she wants to stay married to him, she just have to tag along. It is decided that they will move to Scotland, because Timby wants that. The boy who was named by iPhone. (Eleanor having sent the suggestion Timothy to Joe, when pregnant, and the auto-correct having changed it to Timby.)
As they arrive home, Eleanor remembers that Yo-Yo was abandoned at Cosco, so Joe has to go fetch the dog, who has been tied up there more or less the entire afternoon and evening.
I have told the entire story, so that noone else will have to suffer through this book. I would never have finished it, had it not been that I reserved it at the library and thereby had to pay reservation fee. It was one of the worse books I have ever read! And while others recommend this author, I am not going to bother with any other of her books. Escapism is one thing, but I want stories to make sense and be somewhat believable. And yes, I do believe that LOTR and Narnia etc. are believable in their own way. But this, no.