The Brinkmeyers by Michael Cameron
|The Brinkmeyers by Michael Cameron|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: On the surface, we're ushered through the life of the Brinkmeyer family via various comedic blogs but under the surface problems and sadness ripples subtly until all hell breaks out. I laughed till I cried; yes, that's precisely what I did.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 392||Date: August 2013|
|Publisher: The Other Publishing Company|
|External links: Author's website|
Hymie Brinkmeyer, New Yorker transplanted in the UK is 50 years old on a good day. He lives with his wife Maggie and teenage children Kevin and Karrie. Hymie thinks Kevin is great, while given that, if he gets picked up for drug possession once more, Hymie will have to admit that Kevin may have a problem. Karrie, a burgeoning poet, is also wonderful in her dad's eyes and is about to give birth to her second child outside a relationship. It's her body so she has the right... hasn't she? Everything is fine and life is great. Ok, Kevin's plotting to kill his mother and Hymie's leather-clad secretary seems to have a crush on her boss and Hymie seems to have a lump somewhere delicately crucial but everything's just fine.
Michael Cameron has produced a tragi-comedic cocktail to the standard of fine champagne as the Brinkmeyers are a family that evoke a mixture of feelings. We chuckle while having the desire to hug them better. Their name hints at what they are: a family teetering on the edge till that push sends them sprawling into chaos. This will happen and, when it does, we are totally with them, fully feeling every moment and appreciating the extremely brave ending.
The first voice we hear is Hymie through his blog; loveable, caring, proud of his family and eager to tell us all about them. He admits to blind spots in that he believes the best of his wife and offspring. Then as he lists and excuses their faults, we realise they aren't blind spots, just places that the eternal optimist (in all things but his health) refuses to visit.
Karrie also has a blog in which she broadcasts the hardships of being a single mother whom no one understands, surviving only on a generous allowance from her father and experiencing suffering like only a true poet can. She also notes her total surprise when publishers turn her work down (with some amazingly chortle-worthy publishers' refusal letters). Surely You may be smooth and I may be braided, but I know which one of us gets laid-ed shows more promise than work from old dead guys like Wordsworth?
Kevin also chimes in with an equally unforgettable voice. He's very intelligent, has a great imagination and oscillates between being the 16 year old voice of reason and being the 16 year old. Oh and, going by others' reactions, it's best to stay downwind of him.
Maggie has no blog but we do eventually hear from her via an interesting and unexpected route. We may not like her as a person, but by the end of the book we realise she's more deserving of pity than dislike.
At this point I should say that the book contains adult themes and Karrie's blog contains forthright language supporting her forthright views but to hilarious effect and all in context. In fact Michael is incredibly attuned to the voice and thoughts of a teenage girl, reminding me of one I once knew. (It wasn't me!) There are also some wonderfully surprising twists (the one concerning Karrie being particularly touching) and a very brave ending.
Not all our families are like the Brinkmeyers although, as most caricatures harbour some truth, we'll all recognise facets in those we hold dear as well as in those we can't stand. However through the addictive monologues, laughter, tears and easily discerned but subtle undercurrents, we're confronted by the need to audit our own lives in order to value the important things. In this way The Brinkmeyers is not only entertaining but downright rejuvenating and how long has it been since you felt that way about a book?
I'd like to thank The Other Publishing Company for providing us with a copy for review.
Further Reading: If this appeals then how about another self-narrated view of life that covers the emotional highs and lows, namely Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May?
You can read more book reviews or buy The Brinkmeyers by Michael Cameron at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Brinkmeyers by Michael Cameron at Amazon.com.
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