The News from the End of the World by Emily Jeanne Miller

The News from the End of the World by Emily Jeanne Miller

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (February 21, 2017)
288 pages
Kindle Edition
Advance reading copy provided by the publisher
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When trying to decide whether I might enjoy a particular title, my methods are about as technical as the ones I use when my husband and I meet up with friends at Oaklawn (the horse racing venue in Hot Springs, Arkansas) and I'm preparing to place a wager: horse's name (there are some really good ones!); the color of their silks; whether I've seen the jockey ride/perform/win in the past, etc. 

In a similar fashion, I decided to request a copy of The News of the End of the World: I've had good luck with other novels from this publisher, I liked the cover, the setting (Cape Cod, in the off season), and the promise of dysfunctional family dynamics. Shortly after the first couple of paragraphs (a description of a dream), I decided that I'd made a good choice.

When he opens his eyes it’s dark, and it takes a few moments for him to remember where he is - that he’s not at home, not with Celeste. He’s in his brother’s attic, sweating under an itchy army blanket that smells of mothballs, of the past. Only the heaviness he felt in the dream is real. As his eyes adjust he sees that the thing holding him down is a person: his niece, Helen, is sitting on his chest.

While the marketing blurb might suggest that the center of the drama is an unwanted teen pregnancy, none of the characters in this story are lacking in problems: Vance, the outsider, has returned to his hometown due to the unfortunate loss of both his job and his significant other; Craig, older brother, is struggling to make ends meet in his construction business and hiding it from his wife, Gina; Gina is contemplating adultery; her oldest daughter, Amanda, has returned home from an international study trip, pregnant; and then there's Helen, daughter of Craig and Gina, who is, understandably, trying to garner the attention of any adult that will listen. 

He struck her as so strong, so self-contained. He didn’t need to be coddled or taken care of like the men she’d been with before. But after a while - maybe when she was carrying Helen - she began to find herself feeling lonely and wishing that he needed her more.

The story is told in alternating voices and, while that can often be a challenge, Miller pulls it off with wise, and also hilarious, writing; I think she does a great job of reminding us that life is messy, no matter what we do to find an easier path, and that we are often faced with tough choices. I found this to be a highly relatable story and, when I wasn't chuckling at their antics and sarcasm, felt connected to the struggles of the Lake family. 

A quick read, this would be a wonderful accompaniment on a vacation or long weekend; or, if you'd just like to escape to cozy New England while sitting in your own home. 

 

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