Friday, February 28, 2020

The Last Summer of Ada Bloom by Martine Murray

Sometimes I get a little too grabby with ARCs, asking myself only after the fact, "Wait, am I really sure I'm going to like this?" I was so charmed by the cover of THE LAST SUMMER OF ADA BLOOM that I neglected to ask myself that crucial question, and when I realized it was a domestic drama, my concerns deepened.

Martine Murray is an author you will enjoy if you like Lianne Moriarty. Like Moriarty, Murray's characters are all unlikable and filled with human flaws. There are no easy answers, and they all treat each other pretty badly, even when they're attempting to love one another. I guess that's a pretty good but jaded reflection of real life. We're cruelest to the ones who love us most, knowing that we'll always be forgiven-- until the moment we aren't.

The cast of characters in this book is the Bloom family. Ada is the youngest, a dreamy, bratty child who wants to feel superior to her older siblings, trying to act more grown up and resisting when they make her feel like the child that she is. Ben is the middle child, the sports jock, and also a bit of a wastrel. He's his mother's favorite without having to lift a finger and his father lets him get away with murder because he's good at cricket. Tilly is the oldest child in the family; her sister adores her, but her mother despises her and everything she represents. No matter what she does, or how she succeeds, her mother is ready with an unkind word. Tilly is starting to come into her first blush of love with the town bad boy, but her carefree party life is complicated by a family tragedy. Mike is the good old boy with secrets of his own-- there are two, and one influences the other, and end up serving as his ball and chain. And Martha, his wife, is a needy, insecure woman who makes no secret of playing favorites with her children and is almost neurotic with her ravenous appetite for attention and control.

There isn't really a plot to this book. It's a character study about this horrible family and all the secrets they're hiding from one another over the course of a summer. The more we learn, the more we begin to question how much they're really hiding and what the consequences will be. The writing is very nice and the pacing is good, but I did feel that some of the secrets ended up being anticlimactic-- especially in the case of Mike, the father, who got off pretty lightly, all things considered. I guess I was hoping for more drama, with a more affecting climax, but I guess this is meant to be a gentle meditation on character growth and maturity, so maybe the author thought that wouldn't fit the mood.

I ended up liking THE LAST SUMMER OF ADA BLOOM more than I thought I would. In the beginning, the writing felt very precious, but that went away as the book went on and I actually found myself beginning to warm to the author's style. Again, if domestic dramas are your cup of tea and you don't mind unlikable or imperfect characters, I think you will enjoy this book. Especially-- again-- if you like Lianne Moriarty. This is definitely one of those instances where it pays to be grabby.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!    

3.5 out of 5 stars

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