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After Gus

ISBN-10: 1904985602

By Kathryn Glendinning
Reviewer: Cheryl Townsend

January 2009

This book begins with a rather confusing reference to her father and continues as such as characters are dropped into the fray without proper introductions. Were it not for the family tree provided before the dedication, I would have had to wait chapters to find out who’s who in this sordid tale of somewhat typical familial greed and dysfunction upon the death of a parent.

Jenny, the main character, is the family outcast, albeit through no initial fault of her own. An undiagnosed plague of asthma has her labeled as a crybaby and attention seeker, hence, she is shunned by her all too proper mother, her 5 siblings, her mother’s sisters and at times, her father, who usually tried to take her side. Suffering both the disease and her family’s dismissing, she hardens against them and becomes indifferent. (But given the book’s time frame of the 60’s, I cannot understand how a doctor of medicine would not know asthma when the classic symptoms are presented?) Be that as it may, Jenny is thusly pushed out and off to boarding school with a “difficult child” label and flounders with apathetic disdain for most everyone and everything. Nothing she does is ever good enough and nobody offers to help her overcome it.

Later, as a married mother, she still battles with her clan, even though they all now know the real diagnosis of her youth. There are no apologies, no repentance. The wall is impervious. Living far enough away from her family to ignore them, she is also too far to know what is really going on with the 400 acre family estate she has stock in.

Conniving to cheat Jenny out of her rightful share, her widowed mother finagles to dole the majority of the farm to her eldest son, who is running it at a loss, (or so it appears on paper). But Jenny’s husband is a savvy number cruncher with poignant questions and they soon attain assistance in righting the financial wrongs, while further increasing the family divide. Through a series of nasty (though still “proper”) letters and phone calls between several family members, rancor is spread and Jenny is again misdiagnosed as now being greedy and selfish when, actually, it’s the total opposite.

It’s a book of un-segued venomous rants and retorts, too many “Oh, by the way” additions to an already haphazard story line, and time warps. It’s a good story, just told badly, with a rather cliched ending.

 

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