THE AWKWARD AGE
By: Francesca Segal
Narrator: Jayne Entwistle
PRHA imprint: Penguin Audio
Genre: Fiction – Family Life
Release Date: May 16, 2017
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
“They’ve chosen the one thing that will make our family life impossible. It’s genius really, when you think about it. It’s the perfect sabotage.”
Julia Alden has fallen deeply, unexpectedly in love. American obstetrician James is everything she didn’t know she wanted–if only her teenage daughter, Gwen, didn’t hate him so much. Uniting two households is never easy, but when Gwen turns for comfort to James’s seventeen-year-old son, Nathan, the consequences will test her mother’s loyalty and threaten all their fragile new happiness.
This is a moving and powerful novel about the modern family: about starting over; about love, guilt, and generosity; about building something beautiful amid the mess and complexity of what came before. It is a story about standing by the ones we love, even while they make mistakes. We would give anything to make our children happy. But how much should they ask? http://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/537682/the-awkward-age/
With what is a natural protective and maternal reflex Julia has spoiled her daughter, Gwen after her husband dies. Gwen demands her mother’s utter devotion and complete attention as it is what she is accustomed to. She’s not needy she just feels entitled. You know that even as an adult, Gwen will impose upon on her mother for things like babysitting, money, etc. On the other hand, James and his ex have raised entitled and cavalier children. Gwen is perhaps cavalier too, or maybe just self-centered. Almost out of high school Nathan actually harbors a belief that his parents will get back together. When James and Julia combine their households they do so without really preparing their kids.
This is partly a coming-of-age story, only I am not sure who is coming of age, the children or the parents. There’s also a back story about Julia’s in-laws. Julia is close to them and is estranged from her own mother. It speaks to a feeling of an extended, molecular family, but I thought of that as its own story and honestly didn’t think the story of Julia’s in-laws belonged in the same book. The mother-in-law seems a real self-involved character while the father-in-law seems in decline. Both parents seem strangely blasé about their late son.
It may be partly about how “family” is constructed of truth, love, and sometimes, lies. We lie to ourselves and each other to make a family “rub along.” It was obvious to me that Nathan starts his relationship with Gwen to drive a wedge between his father and Julia. Equally obvious, except to Gwen, is his cavalier attitude.
The top line in the blurb says it all: when it comes down to it, a relationship between James and Julia, parents of pissy teens, is doomed to failure as they naturally take their own kids’ sides. I saw where it was heading but ultimately, found the parents’ behavior with their kids too insipid to really care about the outcome of the relationship. Both parents are taken in by their children and not seeing reality is a wedge a relationship has a hard time surviving. Eventually, both kids will come out on the other side, all right and could probably teach a workshop on how to manipulate parents.
Well narrated by the effervescently voiced Jayne Entwistle who totally gets all the major characters carefully. I kept seeing the characters very clearly through her voice.
Listen for a good tale of how NOT to combine households and to NOT raise privileged kids.