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Kaethe

Kaethe

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The Lotterys Plus One - Emma Donoghue, Caroline Hadilaksono  

The Lotterys Plus One - Emma Donoghue, Caroline Hadilaksono

A failure, sadly, not epic. Here's the set up: an enormous, unconventional family living in Toronto epitomizes all the lefty, hippy, green, etc. positions you can imagine, just exactly as if someone had said, hmm, "what's the super liberal family of today?" and proceeded to include every idea that came to mind, starting with Angelina and Brad's kids but with one lesbian and one gay couple co-parenting. Everyone represents some different combination of mixed races/ethnicities. There are an array of disabilities. The kids are homeschooled, each pursuing their own interests. The family home is as green as possible, the food is organic, they have no car, they dumpster-dive like pros. Although they are wealthy due to a lucky lottery win, they do not indulge in traditional status-symbols, and the kids don't get a lot of stuff, especially plastic stuff, to play with, and have no money of their own except from outside jobs. Also, they didn't buy the ticket. You've got the idea. You can see the pitch meeting in your mind's eye. That's the set-up, now here's the drama: one of the four biological grandfathers, previously never introduced to the children because of a vast array of bigoted and hateful attitudes, has developed Alzheimer's. Can the generous, tolerant, loving family find it in them to accept this angry old codger and truly welcome him? Of course they can. And you've guessed that he in turn develops a warm relationship with all of them. Bullshit. Put aside the simplistic, non-combative, hardly ever actually hurtful portrayal of Alzheimer's. The author has made one member of the family into a token exclusively for a plot point, and that nagged at me from the get go. Nine-year-old Sumac is our point of view character. Both of her birth parents were accountants, so I think we're meant to assume she's Asperger-y. Sumac introduces the rest of the family early on, pointing out whatever characteristic it is that the grandfather will mock or abuse at some point. So, Brian is four, and was born Briar, and a year ago he changed his name, and he never wants to be referred to as a girl, although apparently he's never said he is a boy. Sumac will now use female pronouns for the rest of the book, just to be sure the reader knows that Brian used to be Briar and doesn't for a moment forget that Brian, who keeps his head shaved so as not to be mistaken for a girl, is *really* a girl. When the grandfather sees the child naked for the first time, of course he yells that it's a girl! I'm not any sort of paragon of enlightenment. I get things wrong all the time. If I am any good as a human though, I try to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them. But seriously? Even I know that the first rule of consideration for other humans is to acknowledge and respect how they choose to present themselves. External genitalia and lack of clear declarations aside, if a child chooses not to be a girl you don't refer to him with feminine pronouns. If Brian wants anyone to know that he used to be Briar that is his information to reveal or not. Emma Donoghue knows this, I imagine. And yet, she created a character and deliberately mistreated that character through half the novel, just so we could feel smugger than the grandfather. Library copy