The Hope Family Calendar by Mike Gayle

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SPOILERS!!!

RATING: VERY GOOD

This long weekend I’ve been away in the mountains, and I have had time to read this book by Mike Gayle. It is told from two points of view: Tom and his mother-in-law, Linda. The situation that this family has to face up to is the death of Laura, Tom’s wife, and Linda’s daughter. It has been a year since Laura died in a car crash. Linda moved in with Tom and his young daughters to look after them. However, Tom hasn’t been able to deal with his wife’s death, ignoring his children and immersing in his job as a television producer. Linda tries to make him see he can’t go on like this. The last straw is when he assures her that he is going to a grief counselling group and she finds out he has lied to her.

Linda makes a decision. She is to leave for Australia and spend six months there with a friend, Moira. Tom and the girls beg her to stay, but Linda has made up her mind, and however much it hurts her, she knows that this will be good for Tom and the girls in the long term. So when Linda goes, Tom first hires a live-in nanny, but then he finally comes to terms with the fact that he is a father, and Laura will want to deal with his family. So he asks for some time off work and he is to be a full-time stay-at-home dad.

Things  are difficult for a time, but little by little Tom gets the hang of things. He has some situations to deal with. First, it is Evie, his first-born, who feels she is ugly and boys don’t find her attractive, and then she gets herself a boyfriend. Tom thinks she is too young, but he knows the more he opposes her, the more attractive her boyfriend will be. Then there is Lola, who is seen as a weirdo at school, as she spends school breaks alone and talking to her late mother. Little by little Tom manages to help her girls. He even manages to have a relationship with a young woman, Fran, who is the granddaughter of a new friend of his.

On her part Linda is missing her granddaughters, and it is during a party that she meets a man, Desi, and they hit it off. Predictably, they start having a relationship. Then she also has a shock when she recognises the man who fathered her daughter and abandoned her almost forty years ago. The reason Frank gave her back then is that he didn’t want a family. Linda thinks that she wants to talk to him and tell him about Laura. She finds out Frank is the owner of a hardware company, so she approaches him. However, when he realises Frank has two children who are not much older than Laura was she feels enraged and disappointed. She flees the place, but when Franks keeps calling her, she agrees to meet him. So during this encounter she tells him about Laura’s death and what she thinks of him.  However, she has the decency to tell him that if he wants to have a relationship with their granddaughters, she is okay with it, but Frank thinks he doesn’t deserve such an honour, and she doesn’t get to see him again.

At this time, close to Linda’s return, Tom has a real shock. When one of the mothers of the girls’ school and Laura’s friend gets drunk at a party Tom throws in honour of Laura, she feels scorned as Tom refuses her advances. Then drunk as she is, she tells her that Laura was having an affair. Tom doesn’t want to believe her, but then he keeps thinking about moments in the past when Laura wasn’t where he thought she was, and the day she died, she had the accident where she wasn’t supposed to be. When she checks her mobile phone, she realizes that what Ellie told her is true. This didn’t surprise me as when I heard about the accident and Tom’s surprise about Laura’s whereabouts, I knew that Laura was hiding something. It is a bit sad that Tom’s image of Laura is changed, and he even gets to feel hatred. The worst part is that Tom learns that Linda knew about the affair, and he feels betrayed as she didn’t tell him. Tom even destroys all the pictures of Laura, and feeling hurt, bitter and confused, he decides to break up with Fran.

When Tom calls Linda, she realises she needs to return. Tom has even found the man who was his wife’s lover. He is a lecturer, and Tom forces him to tell him everything. The man tells him that the day he died, Laura broke up with him because she felt guilty, and even though this man begged him to leave everything for him, she decided to stick to Tom and tell him. Even though knowing this revelation, Tom can’t shed the distorted image he has of Laura. Not even LInda returning manages to calm him down. It is only when his new friend dies and Tom attends the funeral, Fran talks and gets to him, and makes him understand that a mistake doesn’t make up a marriage

In the end Tom makes his peace. His relationship with Fran stops as the young woman has decided to travel the world after her dear grandfather passed away. Linda has made a decision. She is going back to Australia to Desi.

I loved the book. I liked the interaction in this family. The part I liked less is Linda’s trip to Australia and her relationship with Desi. However, all in all, it was a great read.

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