I’m a big fan of David Nicholls. His third novel, One Day, sent me over my head in literary lust and I quickly proclaimed it my favorite book. I’ve since calmed down from those heady days and reorganized my list of favorites, but One Day still remains a tender book for me.
In fact, Adam surprised me with tickets to see David Nicholls speak in Zurich and I remember feeling such awe for Adam, having organized a night with an author whom he’d never really heard of before. Then, for Christmas that year, Adam gave me a signed, personalized edition of the book and I knew then for the millionth time that Adam was a gem. No wonder we’re married!
There’s something about the love story in that book that pulls at my heart. Is there anything more unbearable than unrequited love? Of course there is, but it still tugs at all those raw bits of your emotions and makes for such visceral reading.
It’s a trope well-suited for Nicholls, who explores this concept yet again in Us, except this time the story is told in flashbacks instead of yearly installments. And, our protagonist is a priggish 54-year-old instead of a pragmatic twenty-something girl and wild-child boy. Douglas Petersen’s wife tells him in the middle of the night that she would like to leave him and start over. She wants a new chance at life, since this one has run its course. Douglas, shocked by this revelation, uses their pre-planned Grand Tour of Europe as occasion to win her back.
The novel has a Griswolds-go-to-Europe feel to it at times, but for the most part it’s an examination into the undoings of a family and how easy that can come about. While Douglas is our only narrator, he is self-deprecating enough to show us his faults and failures as a parent and spouse, effectively giving the reader perhaps more reason to side with his wife Connie and son Albie. Yet one cannot help but feel sorry for this man who so genuinely wants his family to stay together, even if he is horribly inept at communicating that.
Some critics complain that Douglas’s narration is too censored, especially since he’s been given over 400 pages to share his story, but I find that’s true to the nature of the character. Douglas is not an over-sharer, he will never participate in TMI, so why would he here? I may be stretching the limits of character, but unlike several readers, I wasn’t disappointed in the lack of disclosure.
The novel is incredibly funny. It won’t split your sides, but it will make you wish you possessed a dryer, wittier humor. If only I could come up with such salty one-liners! In my quest for light, mostly easy-breezy books, Us fit the bill perfectly.