WHATEVER MAKES YOU HAPPY by William  Sutcliffe


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London-born author Sutcliffe (Bad Influence, 2004, etc.) takes a look at immature men and the mothers who love them.

Gillian, Helen and Carol have known each other since their sons were in the same playgroup. Now those sons are grown-up—sort of. In their mid-30s, Daniel, Paul and Matt have not only become strangers to their mothers, but they’ve also maintained a sort of protracted adolescence that these women barely recognize as adulthood. During one fateful coffee klatch in a London suburb, this maternal trio decides that fixing their offspring—or at least reestablishing a parent-child connection—requires extreme action. Each of them appears, unannounced, at the home of her son and declares her intention to stay for a week. What ensues, of course, is farce, but what makes this novel exceptional is that Sutcliffe doesn’t take sides. He depicts the terror of these young men with an accuracy that is no less chilling for being funny, but he also clearly understands the fathomless desperation of motherly love. The best-drawn pair is Matt and Carol. The latter is so stolid, so matronly, that she’s nearly ridiculous, but Sutcliffe doesn’t let her turn into a cartoon, and her mission to save her son allows her to discover unknown reserves of vigor and dash. Matt is the editor of a magazine called BALLS!, and his life has all the flash—and all the depth—of an issue of Stuff or Maxim. To the extent that his mother even comprehends his existence, she finds it appalling and sad, and it’s both comic and poignant to see him look at himself through his mother’s eyes. The book isn’t perfect—for example, the arguments between Daniel and his girlfriend have a protracted, self-perpetuating, inescapable quality that makes them both authentic and tiresome to read—but Sutcliffe demonstrates a sharp wit and generosity of spirit that more than make up for this novel’s minor shortcomings.

A sweet, funny and refreshingly original look at generational conflict.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59691-450-6
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2008