I finished The Boy about a month or so ago, and I’ve been sitting on my review because I’m not sure what to say. Emma Donoghue (Room) said she “read it one go” and that it was “brutally honest…about the price of motherhood”. And while I haven’t read Room, lots of Cannonballers have – she’s quite a favorite around here – but her recommending this book as highly as she did honestly kind of puts me off reading it.
Anna is a single mom, raising precocious eight year old Eva. Anna and Eva are living in Arizona while Eva’s dad stays behind in England. It was definitely not an amicable divorce, and both Anna and her ex-husband have lots to say to poor Eva about the other parent. Eva tries, as most kids do in that situation, to play the neutral party, and she’s really the only voice of reason in the whole novel. Although I must say that the housekeeper, with her constant trips to Sonic, imparts some wisdom as well.
In the opening scenes, Anna is at a party at her neighbor’s house, sitting in the kitchen drinking wine, mostly hiding from the other guests. She meets a young man, so young that she questions whether he’s legally allowed to be drinking the beer in his hand. His self-confidence and swagger both draws her in and repels her, and before she consciously realizes it, “the boy” has taken over her life. With Eva conveniently in England visiting her father, Anna and the boy fall in to bed, and suddenly his things are all over her house, and he’s practically living there. Further complicating matters is that the boy is the son of her neighbor, and he and his father are definitely not on speaking terms. Of course, the romance, if it can be called that, ends badly just as Eva returns, and Anna is upside down about it. One evening, though, the boy finally crooks his finger to Anna, and Anna, drunk, gets in the car (with Eva) to see him. The car flips, and the next thing Anna knows, she’s waking up in the hospital, and Eva is in a coma. Eva’s father, understandably, wrests custody away from Anna, and Anna is left without Eva.
And that’s the story in a nutshell. There are some references to Anna having had postpartum depression shortly after Eva was born, and Eva’s father is not portrayed as being especially sympathetic about it – or anything else in Anna’s life – but nothing stood out that was The Reason for Anna’s behavior. Anna just came across as an incredibly selfish person. So did Eva’s father, for that matter, but everything in Anna’s behavior was all about her, even when Eva was lying in the hospital. At no time did she seem to put Eva first, and even to the last page of the book, I never felt that Anna really understood what she had done wrong. I can’t recall ever disliking a character more, except maybe for Amy in Gone Girl or the nut job teacher from Tampa.
Santoro’s prose and pacing is good, but the story just didn’t do it for me. Maybe I just didn’t get it. Or maybe the price of my motherhood is different from that of Anna’s (or Emma Donoghue’s). Probably I should be glad of that.