“She longed to reach out to her mother or grandmother, but the devastation was too heavy and impermeable. It was alien as a sand storm. It had whipped across and lacerated them with its sharpness; it had suffocated them; it had slipped down into all the spaces between them, and worked its way into all the wounds.”
Author: P.K. Lynch Published: 2017 Pages: 266
This novel concerns the Donnelly family who are dealing with the death of one of their own. Peter Donnelly died unexpectedly and his family are left with a hole in their lives. Centring mainly on Sissy, a seventeen year old girl who is trying to cope with the loss of her father, and Jude who is trying to cope with the loss of her husband, Lynch tells a story of grief, family and hope. Swapping between Glasgow and London each of the characters must come to terms with what has happened, but can they cope with the pressure without falling apart themselves?
This novel* was a bit of a slow start and to be honest, it never really picked up very much. Lynch created characters with dimensions and allure but I found myself wanting more from them. I wanted to care about them more than I did. Their relationships however were somewhat more intriguing. I loved how Lynch created Sissy and her mother, Jude, as two opposing forces, both trying to prove they were the most grief-stricken by Peter’s death. While Jude is consumed with grief at the loss of her husband, Sissy’s grief is much more subtle; she drowns herself in drink, drugs and partying and it becomes clear that this is the only way she knows how to numb the pain. What becomes clear is that they are both muddling through and doing what they think is best at the time, and although they both make mistakes, the impact of Peter’s death leaves a palpable hole in both their lives.
Although these books are not really the same, I found myself comparing Wildest of All to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer as both deal with children coping with grief. While the protagonists are very different, they are both struck by the same loss and both must deal with their life in its aftermath. While Oskar in ELIN is compelling and endearing, Sissy is not very likeable and as a result I had much less pity for her. However, I think this was what Lynch intended as throughout the novel, Sissy has a difficult personality. As a character she self-sabotages and as a result ends up with more wounds to heal than most. But what I do like about her is that she is painfully blunt. Sissy makes no qualms about the fact that her situation is not ideal and while her way of dealing with her father’s death may not be the most sensible, she is just making the best of a bad situation.
My main issue with this book was that I was never invested in the characters enough to care for their wellbeing, about whether they would be okay or not. Sure I felt sorry for them because something awful had happened, but I never felt concerned or bothered about their lives. I could easily put the book down and walk away without knowing what happened on the next page.
Something I do want to praise Lynch for is the ordinariness of this novel. At no point did I find myself thinking “that would never happen in reality.” Lynch perfectly captures normal life. One of my favourite books is Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell. In a similar way to Lynch, it deals with ordinary people struggling with grief, loss and pain. Unfortunately, while I don’t think Lynch quite expressed this in the same eloquent way O’Farrell does, her ability to capture ordinary human emotion is undeniable. Lynch’s writing is compelling and clean and while this wasn’t my favourite book I don’t doubt that she is capable of writing something truly outstanding.
Thank you to Legend Press for sending me a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.