The Hope Family Calendar
by Mike Gayle
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publishing Date: 16th June 2016
Source: Copy provided by the publisher thank you!.
Number of pages: 400
Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult)
Tom Hope is broken. Ever since his wife Laura died he hasn’t been the same man, and definitely not the same father. Luckily for Tom his mother-in-law Linda is around to pick up the pieces and look after his two struggling daughters, Evie and Lola.
But Tom getting arrested on the first anniversary of his wife’s death is the last straw for Linda.
In a last bid attempt to make Tom reconnect with his daughters she takes drastic action and leaves for Australia. With two fast-maturing daughters Tom has to learn how to accept his responsibilities and navigate the newly dicovered world of single fatherhood – starting immediately.
With only himself to rely on, will Tom fall back into grief or finally step up and be the father his girls need?
As a huge Mike Gayle’s fan I am always over the moon when I hear that he’s going to release a new book. I’ve read all of his novels and I’ve quickly fell in love with the author’s writing style, his bittersweet but also down – to – earth and so close to life stories, and from the very first book that I’ve read I admired the author’s ability to get so well into the characters’ heads and draw them in such a way that they just get under your skin – and it was the same with „The Hope Family Calendar”. It is not a sad, depressing story, even though there are elements of sadness to it, but it shows – sometimes in an ironic and funny way – how the whole family copes with death of someone beloved. A story about pain and hurt, about a parent „finding” his children anew, about an older woman trying to move on with her life, I would go that far and say that it is Mike Gayle’s best book yet.
I think that what make me to like Mike Gayle’s books so much is the fact that he can „do” emotions and feeling so very well. The way he describes them is so realistic and he never beats around the bush, he writes as it is and his characters have often broken hearts, they suffer, they love and hate and the way he delivers this is so very honest and genuine. And it is the same in his latest release. The author brilliantly captures the feelings of all the characters, of Tom, of Linda and of Tom’s two daughters. Tom Hope’s wife dies in a car accident and he’s suddenly left with two growing daughters. His mother – in – law, Linda, moves in with him to take care of the girls but after a year she sees that she needs to take more radical actions and Tom must eventually face up to his responsibilities and not escape all the time to work, so she goes to visit her best friend in Australia for half a year. What follows is Tom’s journey with all its ups and downs in discovering fatherhood, school – runs, daughters with problems… a journey of failures but also triumphs and struggling with life as a full – time father.
„The Hope Family Calendar” has a funny and a sad side and it made me laugh and cry. It was a beautiful, very close to life story, written in a very realistic way. What I really liked was the fact that every once in a while the author, so oh very casually, dropped a line here or there that made me wonder, a hint suggesting that maybe not everything was as straightforward as I thought, but it was one line, a very quick suggestion and nothing more, though throughout the course of the book there were a few of those hints that eventually started to unfold and led to an unexpected twist at the end of the book.
The book is told from Tom and Linda’s points of view and I really liked that Mike Gayle let Linda tell her side of the story as well. It was great in fact to see how those two, Tom and Linda, thought they are doing the best and how their visions of this best varied, but it was great that they both had a chance to tell their minds. I think I understood Tom, he was grieving and flinging himself into work was his way of coping, but I also truly understood Linda who had only the girls’ weal on her mind and decided to take more radical steps, decide that it’s time for the wake – up call, until it’s not too late. I like that the story was not only white and black, that there were some shades of gray in there which made the reading really captivating and interesting and I loved seeing both sides to this story.
One of the author’s strength is the way he creates his characters. They are always believable, living and breathing people, and no matter if they are main or background characters, there is always a depth to them and they are brilliantly developed – and the same happened in „The Hope Family Calendar”. The characters here are neither flawless nor perfect, they have better and worse days, they’re not always sincere and they have some secrets but this all make them feel even more realistic.
„The Hope Family Calendar” was emotional, beautiful read, full of real feelings and emotions and I enjoyed every single moment of this book. I really think it is Mike Gayle’s best book at the moment. It’s truly so that this story is different to his previous books, it has a lot more depth to it. It concentrates on a family already, and not on girlfriends/boyfriends, new relationships and parties, and is yet so similar in tone and writing style. This book is on a very different level of storytelling and plot development which makes it really exceptional and it features some more serious elements, such as grieving, acceptance and finally coming back to life and it is as if Mike Gayle has been waiting for the right time to write such a story. Well, in my opinion he absolutely delivered and I can’t recommend this book highly enough!