Review: Adult Onset, by Ann-Marie MacDonald

Adult OnsetAdult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

It’s not that I’m insensitive to the topic, or the author’s own struggle with abuse. My problem with Ann-Marie MacDonald’s novel has everything to do with writer’s craft.

And that’s where art is very much subjective. So, there are likely many readers who will find my review irrelevant, perhaps even a point of anger, and that’s fine. This is, after all, my review, and my reaction, for which I take full responsibility.

For myself, I found the development and presentation of the character of Mary Rose MacKinnon to be one which lacks pathos. For the most part she comes across as self-indulgent, incapable of rising above herself and her legitimately difficult past, to offer nurture and guidance to her own children. There is a great deal of whining. There is a great deal of resentment. And the character of Mary Rose comes perilously close to continuing the cycle of abuse.

And while that may have been the point of what MacDonald created in this novel, it also doesn’t resonate particularly well, because if we wish to shed light on the difficulty of child abuse, we also have to find a way to allow readers some form of identification, something to hang on to in order to travel though the character’s story and stay with them, even cheer them on. But there is none of that.

That aside, the writing itself was competent. But it wasn’t arresting. Not in the way we might find Atwood or Crummey, Boyden or Ondaatje. There were no moments of breathtaking prose. But, then, I’m known to be hard to please, and plainly MacDonald didn’t.

Should you read Adult Onset? Sure you should. Why? Because you may very well take away from it something I failed to. It’s worth reading. Just not for me.

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