Here is another review from our star reviewer Pamellia.
Hmm...I am a reader of many genres. However, for the past several years I have read a lot of horror and some of it being a bit disturbing. I have not read any thing from King to Meikle or Strand to Saunders this disturbing and horrific.
Bad is bad. Good is good. Covered up bad (in my mind) does not equal good....and certainly does not equal a happy family. This book does present a moral dilemma that any parent could face, but most will not. The author must have had this idea that does sound cleaver at first thought, maybe a second thought would have prevented the matching of a light heart-ed very public dinner with such a shocking and private topic.
The dinner's various categorizes of the menu were suppose to match (I think) the conversation of these 2 men and their wives. I wasn't convinced of that. In fact for at least the first 35% of the book, I had no idea it was going to be such a true horror! These 2 couples had monsters for children, no doubt in my mind. Any one of any age would have seen that ATM booth and called the police. What they did was not logical. And then for responsible parents to cover something like that up. Not helping, people!! The parents were not helping their futures they were hindering the future of these two boys. Obviously these boys needed professional help and maybe even prison time. There was not even a mention of parental punishment, was there. And what was approved by Claire, the mother of Michel, good Lord, that woman was psychotic!! What...she knew something should have been done, decided this was the way to go, not even informing her husband??
Our narrator, Poor ole Paul...”Good Ole Dad” as Michel said a few times in the book, who started off in such a light-hearted upbeat way, sure turns the tables doesn't he. Paul is one of several characters in this book not to like. In fact there were no characters in this book to like. They were all scum-bags. I honestly do appreciate likeable characters in books I read. At least one or two.
There were a few things I wondered about. What exactly is this author trying to do in this book? Is he trying to promote a moral or political agenda? I mean if we know someone is going to be asocial, then should that life be eliminated before it's had a chance to be born? Paul obviously had issues. After the high school job, where did his money come from? At this point was Claire working? Paul mentions Claire not working and cared for her child with the support of Day Care, so she had 3 days a week for herself. What?? That alone is weird. No mother wants to take their child to day care 3 days a week, especially one that she knows_____(don't want to spoil here). So that whole set up was dysfunctional. Was Claire working then? What happened when Claire was in hospital and Babette and Serge came over and found the mess? Was it impossible for Paul to care for his son, even though he thought he could? And what about Serge's political ambitions. He just throws them away and then decides not to or what? The hitting, the scars, the beard. It's interesting, yes indeed, but it doesn't seem to come together to make any sense. Another issue is Serge wants to be in the public eye, but he doesn't want this event to be in the public eye...so he invites Paul and Claire to met him at a very public place where servers are always at the table and the public is there for pictures and if someone could catch a word Mr. Future Prime Minister (look out Mr. Rutte!) would say, it would be public knowledge soon. Why not meet in a private setting? That seemed odd to me.
What I don't know now is this, Was the book written poorly or did the author actually mean for the characters to be as idiotic as they were unlikable? I'm not sure, but I do know there is a lot of information that we do not know (see previous paragraph) and it could have been easily included in the story.
However, even the illogical and left out information, I thought the book was a good read. Starting out as a nice dinner where we soon find out, is not such a nice dinner. One sympathizes with Paul at the beginning, thinking he really wants this happy family and thinks he has it. He thinks he can take care of his son and honestly thinks he's doing a good job. It's sad really, for Paul is out of touch with reality. I believe Clair knows this and feels she must cover up for him and their son. So then one has to ask themselves when is family right and when is it wrong. Looks like in this family and extended family, if you are on Clair's side you are right. I might recommend this book, but I think I would be more inclined to strongly recommend certain people not read it.