The first few pages of AM Homes’ new novel grab attention: there’s a tragic car accident, a violent attack, infidelity. The disturbing dramas and tragedies would be more at home on the stage of Dr Phil than in the American suburbs (even one as Gothic as this) but it’s a novel of great scope, taking some truly hideous events and spiking them with humour and realism.
We watch the story unfold around Harold Silver, an academic and the long-suffering brother to flashy, TV-producer brother George. George and his wife Jane have a golden marriage; Harold and his wife Claire are on the rocks. Then George is involved in a car crash, emerging disorientated and disturbed. It kicks-off a set of events that leave Harold the sole carer of George and Jane’s two children.
The spectacular scenes at the opener may be unlikely but the emotions Homes describes are ones that most people will have experienced: insecurity, competitiveness, the weight of family expectation. You’ll cheer Harold on, then bury your face in your hands in despair, before doubling back and rallying behind him again. His life often seems destined for ruin and it makes for uncomfortable reading but it resonates, offering a sharp lesson in redemption, relationships and expectation. AM Homes is taking part in a Q&A on this book at London’s South Bank on 24 October. Book a ticket – you’ll want to meet her once you’ve read this.