Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
Stuart was married to Claire, someone he loved very much, and they had a son, Atticus (Atty). Life was really good until the night Stu had to tell Claire his truth – he is gay. It didn’t end well and now Stuart carries around so much guilt for what happened. It’s been eleven months and they are coming up on the last weekend in autumn, a time they traditionally spent at Claire’s sister Bethany’s house at the lake. Bethany, she raises my blood pressure. Stuart wanted to skip it all. Bethany isn’t kind at the best of times and this will just be a reminder of who is missing. But Atty forces the issue and off they go, with their dog, Digby. The trip is just as awful as Stu was afraid it would be and maybe even a little worse. Atty, Stuart and meddlesome Bethany (plus family) all have some adjusting and facing facts to do, all while dealing with something so painful.
The book begins with a class presentation by Atty. His mom had been a videographer and when she died, her 8 mm camera went to Atty. She had taught him how to edit and how to work with movies, so his presentation was a documentary. The theme, The Story of My Life So Far, is a typical one for an eight-year-old’s classroom but Atty’s presentation was not typical. After all, his mother died and he and his father are grieving. Atty hasn’t cried, but he’s grieving nonetheless. It shows in his presentation.
Mrs Duckworth, Stuart’s personal assistant. I don’t even have words for this woman (and I originally gave the book 3.5 stars then had to raise it some just for her). She is matronly and motherly. She lectures Stuart about talking with food in his mouth, how he ties his tie and her quirk is ahhhh-mazing. “I’m talking your ‘lingo’”. Oh my, how I loved me some Mrs. Duckworth. She lectures Stuart on being gay and “…made a point of educating myself on all things homosexual.”
It should be noted that while there is a possible love interest in the person of Cain, this is definitely not a romance. It is a journey of father and son, and extended family, through grief and being able to move forward. The romance is very much in the beginning stage and we don’t even meet Cain until halfway through and he doesn’t show up again until nearly the end. Because that isn’t what this book is about.
There were times when Atty didn’t talk like your average eight-year-old. I teach four to eight-year-olds and I’ve never heard one say “Duly noted.” Or “perhaps”. Even, “Thank you for an eventful weekend.” He didn’t talk that way throughout the book, just at the end, which is probably why I noticed it there.
There are some hard truths that Aunt Bethany has to face as well. Even after her epiphany, I didn’t like her. She made some headway at the end but her theory that she was always trying to be perfect doesn’t jibe with the absolute meanness she shows, not only to Stuart and Atty but to her husband and children as well. Hopefully, she had enough self-realization at the end to make a turnaround.
There was a twist I wasn’t expecting, although it made sense. This was by turns sad and hopeful. And when Mrs Duckworth was around, funny. “Bare throat” indeed. But mostly it was a hurting father and son sticking together. And the beagle makes three.
Cover art by Geoffrey Knight fits the book perfectly. Stuart, Digby and Atticus, in the car on their road trip to the lake.
AMAZON US: https://amzn.to/2GPSbHi
AMAZON UK: https://amzn.to/2EAgBTz
Published April 12th 2018
Original TitleAnd the Beagle Makes Three