Grown Ups has the strange honour of being the book that straddled / took me through lockdown. What I mean by that is, I started listening to it on audiobook during my commute to work in MARCH, then lockdown hit and I found that just randomly listening to audiobooks at home felt weird to me, so I had to pause it for a while.
Cut to a few months into lockdown and due to being in it with two small children, I had to embrace the solo evening walk for a glorious bit of alone time, so I finally finished listening!
Let’s meet the Caseys
I am so grateful that this is the audiobook I was listening to when all this happened. Not only did I love the story, but it is narrated by Marian Keyes herself, and this made the whole experience just brilliant.
Because I was listening to Grown Ups for so long, I genuinely feel like the Casey family are extended members of my own. So yes, this is the story of a large family: brothers Johnny, Ed and Liam, their respective partners Jesse, Cara and Nell and their children Ferdia, Saoirse, Bridey, TJ and Dilly (Jesse and Johnny’s) and Tommy and Vinny (Cara and Ed’s).
This might feel like a lot of characters but (bar the younger children), we really do get to know them all and become fully entwined in their lives.
The story opens during a dramatic family dinner and we learn the events that lead up to this, before returning to the same dinner at the end of the book and discovering the outcomes of the characters. This is a very satisfying story structure and one that makes sure you keep reading.
From a luxurious family holiday to Tuscany, to a disastrous but hilarious murder-mystery weekend via a harvest festival and many family meals and gatherings, we get to know the nuances of each relationship and are right there with them as the characters grow and develop.
It’s the female characters that I found most fascinating: Jesse is the ringleader but more complex than you first think, Nell is the one that never quite fits in and Cara is battling personal problems that Marian Keyes does such a wonderful and empathetic job of describing.
Grown Ups doesn’t shy away from big issues
One of Marian Keyes’ signature moves is to address serious issues in such a relatable way. I’ve yet to read a book of hers that doesn’t do this brilliantly (Rachel’s Holiday was about addiction and The Break had a sub-plot about Ireland’s abortion laws). In Grown Ups, Marian eloquently talks about bulimia and Ireland’s refugee crisis (another Irish book I read recently – Scenes of a Graphic Nature – also highlights the controversial Direct Provision scheme in Ireland).
Marian uses her platform and work to draw attention to issues she cares about and I think that’s wonderful.
It’s hard for me to reflect on this book and not be overridden by a mass of confused feelings towards the current situation. It will always remind me of this time, I think. But I will always think of it with fond memories, as the Casey’s were there for me when I needed distraction from reality!
- Audiobook narrated by Marian Keyes:
- Running time
- Published by Michael Joseph February 2020;
- 656 pages;
- My rating: