A grumpy astronaut unexpectedly befriends a down-on-its-luck family.
Thomas Major wasn’t even meant to be the first man on Mars—but when the astronaut who was supposed to go dropped dead of a heart attack, he jumped at the chance. Being completely alone in space sounds heavenly to Thomas, who dislikes just about everyone he’s ever encountered. But one day, while attempting to contact his ex-wife from his spaceship, he ends up accidentally calling Gladys, an elderly British woman with dementia. Soon, he’s enmeshed in her family’s life. Her 10-year-old grandson, James, is trying to win a science competition while dealing with intense bullying at school. Her granddaughter, Ellie, 15, is working multiple jobs while her father’s in prison. The three of them are just trying to keep their family together without social services getting involved, but when they get an eviction notice, their only chance seems to be James’ winning his science competition and getting the prize money. Although Thomas tries to stay out of it, he finds himself wanting to help the family, especially James. He begins to realize that there are actually a few people worth living for on Earth. Barnett creates a lovably grumpy hero in Thomas Major. He starts out genuinely unpleasant, but as readers learn more about the tragedies in his past, he becomes sympathetic. He also grows as he gets to know Gladys, James, and Ellie, who are all lively characters in their own rights. Although the problems they deal with are serious, there’s plenty of humor, including more fart jokes than most heartwarming novels feature.
A warm and funny story about the connections between family and friends.