The Past (released Sept. 2015, 362 pages, 3.4 stars on Goodreads) is about three sisters and a brother who spend three weeks at their grandparents home, an annual family holiday tradition. The only difference about this holiday is it may be their last. The family home is crumbling down around them, and the siblings are faced with the hard decision to sell.
The book opens in the present. Harriet (the eldest, activist turned mouse), Roland (the second eldest, father of teenage Molly, and husband of a new, third wife), Alice (the drama queen) and Fran (parent of young children Ivy and Arthur, married to Josh, a musician) are forced together out of family tradition, and you sense the tension between siblings immediately.
Hadley has a keen ability to develop characters in a short amount of time, drawing in the reader with each page turn. I felt invested in the dysfunctional family (much like my own) – so I read the damn thing in three hours.
Teenage sex, lesbian longing, loudmouth sisters, spoiled brats and a dead dog are just a few situations Hadley wove into the present. One key thing missing was a glimpse of the adult siblings’ parents.
Enter the past. Jill carries her three children to her childhood home. Mother Sophy is an understanding woman who offers nothing but support and poet/vicar father Grantham Fellowes is proud, but loving father. Jill, who previously escaped the small town of Kington with her left-wing journalist husband, has found out about an affair, and flees without a word. She seeks out a job and a place to live – and maybe a man or two.
Back to the present. The family tension erupts in several difference circumstances – and it was easy to feel the embarrassment and rage the characters displayed. There’s a shocker at the end (one I already guessed, but damn, it’s pretty good), and then…the story ends. You can only imagine what happens to each character (something I rather like). It reminded me a tad of Elizabeth Stroud’s Olive Kitteridge.
The book title is a tad misleading – it only slightly focuses on the longing of childhood memories. I believe the title is rooted in the huge transformation we’ve made from the 1960s until now.
Bottom line. A good read. But not for those who like an ending packaged and tied with a big, red bow.
I’m not going to spend as much time on The Good Neighbor, because it’s bullshit. I know, I sound like a bitch, and I can’t comprehend how hard it is to write a book, so I applaud the effort. But I’m trying to help YOU out, not the author.