I was going to attempt to do one of my overly verbose, wordplay-filled summaries for this novel, as they are turning out to be one of my very favorite things to write, but I found that the publisher’s copy is actually pretty perfect as on its own, particularly in capturing the frantic, frenetic tone of the story. It goes:
𝘐𝘵’𝘴 𝘊𝘩𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘮𝘢𝘴, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘺𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘳𝘦 𝘉𝘪𝘳𝘤𝘩 𝘧𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘺 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘳𝘰𝘰𝘧. 𝘌𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘌𝘮𝘮𝘢 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘈𝘯𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘸’𝘴 𝘦𝘭𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘥𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳 — 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘪𝘴 𝘶𝘴𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘰𝘧𝘧 𝘴𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘭𝘥 — 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦 𝘫𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮 𝘢𝘵 𝘞𝘦𝘺𝘧𝘪𝘦𝘭𝘥 𝘏𝘢𝘭𝘭. 𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘖𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘢, 𝘢 𝘥𝘰𝘤𝘵𝘰𝘳, 𝘪𝘴 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘰. 𝘚𝘩𝘦’𝘴 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯 𝘦𝘱𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘮𝘪𝘤 𝘢𝘣𝘳𝘰𝘢𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘺 𝘪𝘯 𝘲𝘶𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢 𝘸𝘦𝘦𝘬… 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘰 𝘵𝘰𝘰 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘧𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘺.
𝘍𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘯𝘦𝘹𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘥𝘢𝘺𝘴, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘉𝘪𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘤𝘬𝘦𝘥 𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘯, 𝘤𝘶𝘵 𝘰𝘧𝘧 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘶𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘩 𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳’𝘴 𝘰𝘳𝘣𝘪𝘵𝘴. 𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘳, 𝘶𝘯𝘢𝘣𝘢𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘥𝘭𝘺 𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘷𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘶𝘴 𝘥𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘗𝘩𝘰𝘦𝘣𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘧𝘪𝘹𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘯 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘶𝘱𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘦𝘥𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘦 𝘖𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘢 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘤𝘬 𝘰𝘧 𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘴𝘵-𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘭𝘥 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘣𝘭𝘦𝘮𝘴.
𝘈𝘴 𝘈𝘯𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘸 𝘴𝘦𝘲𝘶𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘩𝘪𝘮𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧 𝘪𝘯 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘴𝘵𝘶𝘥𝘺 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘶𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘸𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘨𝘭𝘰𝘳𝘺 𝘥𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘸𝘢𝘳 𝘤𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘯𝘵, 𝘌𝘮𝘮𝘢 𝘩𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘴 𝘢 𝘴𝘦𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘦 𝘧𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘺 𝘶𝘱𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘯.
𝘐𝘯 𝘤𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘹𝘪𝘮𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘺 𝘩𝘪𝘥𝘥𝘦𝘯 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨-𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘥 𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘭𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵, 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘴 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘤𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘶𝘯𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘨𝘶𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘸𝘩𝘰’𝘴 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘷𝘦….
I mean, come on. I suppose it does also make it sound like a Lifetime and/or Hallmark movie, but, unremarkable and problematic as they may be (must they all center around white, upper-middle class people and their problems, in this the year of our Lord 2020), you kind of have to admit that they seemed to have cracked a hell of an alluring formula. Why else would
my mother audiences keep coming back for more?
But that’s the vibe I got from Francesca Hornak’s 𝑺𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏 𝑫𝒂𝒚𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝑼𝒔. And while I may not generally be a fan of the tried and true trope of melodrama stemming from people not communicating clearly with one another, I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy the hell out of it in this telenovela of a novel. Admittedly, my interest in it only began about the midway point, finding the first half’s set-up and exposition excessive to the point of being tedious. The nearer the story got to Christmas however, the more all the secrets and pent up tension from the preceding pages threatened to explode. The outcome of which was the bookish equivalent of not being able to look away from a trainwreck. I was surprised to find myself gasping and harshly whispering out things like “ⁿᵒ” and “ᵖˡᵉᵃˢᵉ ᵈᵒⁿ’ᵗ” and “ᵒʰ ᵍᵒᵒᵈ ᵍᵒᵈ ʷʰʸ” so often. It was pretty great.
Much of that enjoyment was a direct result of Hornak’s remarkable job at writing this bevy of fastidious, slightly unlikeable characters. You may not wish to spend some time with them in real life, but you can certainly, assuredly, relate and empathize with every single one of them. We might not be going through many of their specific set of issues (Olivia labeling them first world problems is spot on for the most part), but we know how family can be a battleground almost as often as it is a haven. It’s another time-tested trope — one that rings particularly true in this time of quarantine and lockdowns.
It’s a little wild to think that this stay-at-home angle was probably the one aspect of the novel the author must have thought not many readers would find relatable. Why would she? This book was first published in 2017, after all. Back when we were all still taking the act of being able to go outside your house and mingling with other people who are not immediately related to you totally and utterly for granted. Ha ha ha who would have ever thought.