Reviewed by Jules Absalom
‘You don’t see how much I do. And how little you do.’
‘Like what?’ he says, finally.
‘I don’t know, it’s not like I keep a list,’ I said.
‘Maybe you should.’
‘Maybe I will.’
Mary is a 35 year old part time worker, full time mother, and what feels like full time house cleaner and maid to her three boys, husband (Joel) and two adorable children (Gabe and Rufus). Mary decides that in a life where she has very little control over the small every day things, such as tidying up the pile of junk at the bottom of the stairs, or picking up the dirty clothes from the floor that she needs to take some sort of action. Her stress levels are going through the roof as her temper is taking over all other emotions, but she can’t find a way to make Joel understand. So she decides to make a list over the course of six months outlining all the things that Joel does or doesn’t do, or messes up around the house.
The list isn’t all negatives, in order to be fair Joel also gets points awarded for nice gestures, such as compliments or playing with the children. The list starts off as a bit of therapy, a list just to show her husband what he does on a regular basis over a period of six months that just doesn’t help, makes her life harder or downright annoys the hell out of her. However, along the way the list becomes a bit of a refuge, somewhere she can release the anger of yet another dirty tissue left lying around or another set of breakfast dishes that aren’t cleaned.
The story is about what happens after the fairytale ‘happy ending', it is about relationships, friendships and the daily grind of it all. However, this book is far from a miserable rant, it is also about all the good things in a long term relationship and the real joys of great friends and family moments. I don’t think my summary has done complete justice to the book, it is a funny and insightful look into the world of a working mother who dreams about having everything under control, as well as having all the dirty socks exactly where dirty socks belong.
I loved the two main characters of Mary and Joel, the details of their relationship was at times brilliantly written and filled with the all tiny elements that make up a relationship and therefore made theirs seem real to me. I loved the bit of the book describing all their hopes for their first born child, where Joel made a beautiful home mixed selection of music to play at the birth. For me Christina Hopkinson’s managed to capture the unreal excitement and expectations as well as the gritty realistic truth that early relationships have and then the comfort of the later years.
Although this book didn’t have me rolling around on the floor laughing out loud it did have a few occasions where I had the odd chuckle to myself. There are of course a lot of annoying habits that most of us in a long term relationship are either responsible for or have a partner that does it. There was more than one occasion where I thought Mary really hit the nail on the head with how annoying a certain behaviour can be when it’s repeated and repeated and repeated. There is a lot in this book that I believe people in a long time relationship will recognise and sympathies with, or even do themselves.
This is Christina Hopkinson’s second novel, but she is certainly an author I will look out for in the future.