This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon

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This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: This is a beautiful, humorous, gentle love story that's on a nose-bleedingly higher level than your average romance. Reading this means being slowly lulled and then swept away to book heaven where the greatest sadness will be finishing it and having to leave everyone in it behind. I know – I'm underselling this aren't I?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: May 2012
Publisher: Sphere
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1847445469

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Richard and Judy Summer Reading List 2013

This is an incredibly gentle (and gently funny) love story set in the winter of 2008 when the Irish economy was booming and the US were about to elect their first black president. Hugh (a deliciously grumpy surgeon) and his currently unemployed architect daughter Addie lived happily in an Irish seaside town. Ok, he'd broken both his wrists tripping over Addie's dog and Addie found it hard not to cry sometimes, but they were alright. Then one day, out of the blue, they receive a voicemail message from Bruno, a distant American relative who's just popped over the ocean to say 'Hi!' Remembering the last US relative who came to visit (it didn't go well), Addie and Hugh decide to ignore the phone... and the front door... and the occupant of the bench seat across the road... He's bound to go home eventually.

When a publisher pays a six-figure sum for a debut novel, you hope they know what they're doing. In this case Sphere did, for this is a debut novel that's worth every penny. There are so many joys attached to this book it's hard to know where to start. For instance, the characters populating the world of RTE journalist and broadcaster Kathleen MacMahon are incredibly real. They may be on the quirky side of real but then aren't we all?

Hugh has a hard shell but is as soft as butter underneath, he's just afraid to show it and this fear causes him huge problems. Della and Simon, Addie's sister and brother-in-law, would be the sort of people who have matching pine furniture and stripped floor boards, having named three of their four daughters after literary characters. (The daughters themselves named the fourth child which, shall we say, broke the mould a little.) Then there are Addie and Bruno themselves.

Bruno and Addie didn't mean to fall in love. Bruno had just come looking for his roots and Addie... love was something she thought would remain elusive due to her past. However love did come and it just happened; no bright lights, no drama just a gradual drift into happiness before awareness struck. This is how people act in real life and it changes them, as it does Addie. We witness her gradually release control, thread by thread as her independence re-stitches itself into an interdependence. Oh so slowly we learn about Addie and Bruno as they learn about each other. We understand why Bruno has chosen that time in his life to become an amateur genealogist. We begin to realise why Addie bursts into tears so often, the tragedies that have assailed her and why, initially, she needed every ounce of her control and defences.

If you want more from a novel than a love story populated by characters whom you'll befriend (sounds sad, but trust me), then the author has thought about deeper meanings too. She explores nationality and belonging, how personalities can be deformed by growing around family secrets, how happiness can sometimes be a scary concept and (most importantly) it's about seizing the day, each day. There are even metaphors: Hugh fights surging tides in the same way he has to fight almost insurmountable problem and, of course, there are northern lights and all they stand for at the end.

This book comes with a twist that you will either see coming a mile off or will hit you with the shock of an oncoming train but it doesn't matter. The destination (as beautifully written as it is) dims in importance when compared to the journey.

This is How it Ends will slowly make the world recede as you slide into the story without realising it. Your heart will be warmed, you'll laugh, you'll cry and children will notice their teatime slip past unmarked because you won't want to put Addie and Bruno away. For the ultimate tragedy of this book is that there's a final page and the novel eventually does end.

I would like to thank the publisher for giving Bookbag a copy of this book for review.

If you've enjoyed this and would like to read another heart-warmer, you may well enjoy The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

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Buy This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon at


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