This is my first read of 2017, and it’s a re-read of a favorite. I also re-read all the reviews before writing this. Some of the criticisms are fair. The ending is abrupt (no spoiler), Alicia isn’t the most likeable parent on the planet, and there are stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities rampant in the narrative.
However, life doesn’t always give closure when life happens. I guess that’s why an abrupt ending feels okay here. I know that many readers don’t like it when the climax comes so close to the end of the book, and you don’t even have time to catch your breath. But I do. It feels realistic when that happens.
Again, Alicia (Ally) wasn’t the most likeable or the most politically correct parent on the planet. Her counterpart, Thomas’s mother Margaret, was much more likeable. She was pleasant and cheerful and fully supportive of his inclusion in certain activities. But when it came to the relationship between Chloe and Thomas, Alicia was the more realistic parent about the limitations of these two individuals. Not all mentally challenged people are incapable of romantic relationships, but this isn’t a story about people in general. This is a story about Chloe and Thomas. It may not have been politically correct to resist their marriage, but Alicia knew her daughter. She knew what she could handle and what she couldn’t. I don’t think that Margaret realized the impact that this relationship could have on everyone.
At the end, who was affected the most by what happened? Not Margaret and her husband. Chloe and Thomas lived with Alicia during their marriage. Yes, there were things I’m surprised that Alicia didn’t handle differently (birth control being one of them). That came from her denial of the possibility of sexuality for someone with an intellectual disability. By the time she realized her mistake, she couldn’t take some of the actions she might have if she had dealt with it when Chloe was younger. (I’m not saying that those actions would have been the right thing to do, but they would have been alternatives that many parents might have considered.)
I’m not sure what I would have done in her shoes. All I know is that everything I know and believe about intimacy for people with disabilities was turned upside down for re-examination. I don’t know if it will ever look quite the same.
Now that’s a novel.