Wonderful wonderful wonderful. Good Eggs is a heartwarming, tender family satire told in a delightfully lilting Dublin voice. Well, three Dublin voices to be precise; a spirited octogenarian widow, a prickly sixteen year old girl, and a fifty year old father of four, teetering on the brink of a midlife crisis.
‘Bracing, hilarious, warm, this novel is as wayward and mad as the human heart.‘
Judy Blundell, New York Times bestselling author
what it says on the cover …
Meet the Gogartys: cantankerous gran Millie (whose eccentricities include a penchant for petty-theft and reckless driving); bitter downtrodden stepson Kevin (erstwhile journalist whose stay-at-home parenting is pushing him to the brink); and habitually moody, disaffected teenage daughter Aideen.
When Gran’s arrested yet again for shoplifting, Aideen’s rebelliousness has reached new heights and Kevin’s still not found work, he realises he needs to take action. With the appointment of a home carer for his mother, his daughter sent away to boarding school to focus on her studies and more time for him to reboot his job-hunt, surely everything will work out just fine. But as the story unfolds – and in the way of all the best families – nothing goes according to plan and as the calm starts to descend into chaos we’re taken on a hilarious multiple-perspective roller-coaster ride that is as relatable as it is far-fetched.
PUBLISHED: 18th March 2021
SHELF: fiction | family | cultural
AUTHOR: Rebecca Hardiman
PUBLISHER: Allen & Unwin
FORMATS: Hardback | Kindle
‘Nuclear family can be uniquely nuclear.’
my review …
Pitched somewhere between family-drama and family-comedy, Good Eggs is an affable, engaging book whose charming characters and playful, free-wheeling plot welcomed me into its pages like a long lost friend. It’s an emotive study of the dynamics of parent-child relationships which is, by turns, uplifting yet poignant, homespun yet adventurous, indulgent yet candid.
Set in the Dublin village of Dún Laoghaire, Good Eggs is a family story that pivots around fifty year old Kevin Gogarty’s life as he juggles a wayward octogenarian stepmother, a prickly and wayward sixteen year old daughter, and a dramatic change in his life-roles. Yet, Kevin’s proving to be pretty wayward himself, fighting a losing battle with a midlife crisis with potentially catastrophic ramifications for his twenty-year long marriage to Grace.
The opening chapter belongs to eighty-three year Millie, who immediately strikes a sparky, magnetic impression. Her warm-hearted nature and provocative cheekiness brought to mind Jenny Joseph’s poem, Warning … “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple.” Millie lives alone in the large, once-bustling family home that now echoes with bitter-sweet memories of her husband, and the tragic cot death of their baby daughter. Her aloneness is palpable, and although she actively seeks out the company and attention of others, she ferociously resists the home-help Kevin’s so keen to foist on her.
Kevin, meanwhile, is growing increasingly frustrated with his lot. Recently made redundant from his job as a journalist, he finds himself in the role of house-husband, raising four children and spending long evenings alone whilst high-flying Grace’s career demands more and more of her time. In his head, Kevin’s still in his early thirties with an irresistible charm, and his finger firmly on the pulse, but with each passing chapter life, and teenage daughters, are all too quick to disabuse and dent him.
Whilst I didn’t warm to Kevin as much as I did Millie, I’d often find myself pitying him. His marriage to Grace is floundering, his step mother is pilfering her way around the local shops, and his twin daughters Aideen and Nuala are seemingly hellbent on ruining each other. And in amongst all the cooking, cleaning, fetching, carrying, fixing and mending he’s half-heartedly hunting for a job that’ll cherish his old-school paper-based journalistic skills in a digital world. The chapter where his one interview happens was one of the stand-out funniest for me … that, and the chapter where he takes Millie to a smart restaurant to break the news of an in-home carer, in the hope that the refined surroundings will encourage a polite acceptance of the changing circumstances. Let’s just say, it was a completely misjudged decision, with fabulously unruly consequences.
With Sylvia, the ebullient American in-home carer, successfully imposed on Millie, Kevin turns his attention to Aideen. I loved Aideen. Yes she’s sullen and destructive, and with the smothering gloom that a Harry Potter dementor would be proud of, but her teenage vulnerability has been written with vivid accuracy. Her deportment, her facial and spoken reactions, her sulks – they’re all pitch perfect. She’s a girl who isn’t afraid to make her disgruntlement known, and when her parents pack her off to Millburn boarding school she lashes out spectacularly. On the one hand, this move has put some health distance between Aideen and her vivacious, flirtatious twin Nuala (the prime source of Aideen’s gawky, spotty teenage angst), but if her parents were hoping this change would surround her with preppy, cheerful, well-behaved young ladies then let’s just say that this was their second ill-judged decision.
The chapters of Good Eggs are narrated in turn by Millie, Aideen, and Kevin. They’re pithy, moreish and bursting with the distinctive personalities of each individual character. Their voices are well defined and engagingly authentic, with each chapter illuminating the fragile familial relationships, and generational chasms.
This book is a dichotomy. On the one hand, it boasts so many beautifully observed anthropological gems and tender moments that perfectly capture the difficulties of ‘parenting’ your parents when the time comes, the culture shock of children as they march unstoppably towards adulthood, and the fluctuations in a marriage. Yet on the other hand there’s the laugh-out-loud moments that pop up generously often, spiralling towards some increasingly outrageous capers that perhaps stretch the credibility just a little.
Good Eggs is a fun, lively, easy read with a cast of characters I really enjoyed getting to know as the story progressed. I saw some little flashes of some of my own experiences at times, and I’m guessing any reader from twenty-years upwards will all have similar moments of recognition. Good Eggs is a perfect, light-hearted book that offers some precious, escapist indulgence. It’s the bookish equivalent of a nice chilled glass of quaffable rosé and a bowlful of chocolate mini eggs … which is exactly how I accompanied my reading time.
my rating …
Thank you to the very team at Allen & Unwin for sending me an advance proof copy of Good Eggs in return for an honest, impartial review.
Rebecca Hardiman currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and three children. She is a dual Irish-American citizen, who attended boarding school in Dublin as a teenager and who regularly visits her family there. She has been an editor at magazines including In Style, Movieline, and People en Español, and has written for various other publications. Good Eggs is her first novel.
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