Best Book of the Week!
It may take some fortitude for readers to get past the foul language and bad behavior at the beginning of this novel. But I think most readers will feel it is worth it to have read this dark, funny, and ultimately touching little modern gothic novel.
Marnie and her younger sister Nelly find themselves with a problem. Their parents are dead, and they have already once experienced the joys of the foster care system. So, the two girls bury their mother Izzy in the back garden and hide their father Gene in the shed.
Izzy hung herself, but it is not altogether clear for quite some time what happened to Gene. The couple were terrible parents in any case, Izzy a self-obsessed, neglectful addict and Gene also an addict and molester of his own daughters. The two girls will do their best to take care of themselves until 15-year-old Marnie can do it legally.
Lennie, the old man next door, is a social outcast. After the death of his long-time partner, the lonely Lennie was once tempted by a male prostitute, only to be arrested and charged because the prostitute was a minor. Lennie doesn’t see that well anymore, so although he knew the man was young, he didn’t know how young and feels thoroughly ashamed. Despite his poor eyesight, Lennie is the only person who notices that the two girls are on their own. Soon, he is inviting them over and feeding them, happy to have someone to cook for.
The meat of the novel is the characters of these three. Marnie is brash, foul-mouthed, and smart. She is determined to protect her unworldly sister. But she is more vulnerable than she seems.
Nelly speaks like someone out of a Jane Austen novel and seems strangely clueless for a girl growing up in a tough Glaswegian neighborhood. She has a tendency to see only what she wants to.
Lennie misses his partner. He is meticulous but still ready to open his house to the two teenage girls.
Marnie’s world is populated with drug dealers, butch girlfriends and unreliable boyfriends, a best friend who was ready to run off with her father, and other difficult personalities. As Lennie’s dog Bobbie insists on digging up the bones in the garden and the girls evade questions about their parents, they both learn who they can love and depend upon.
All the Birds, Singing