What Keyes possesses that many of her imitators lack is a passionate curiosity about people and an immersion in an oral storytelling tradition that makes her writing comic, convincing and true. Grown Ups has all of this and an almost Austenesque insight into character – if Austen had written about period poverty, the trouble with fast fashion, a precocious 12-year-old who “operated like a union rep for the five youngest cousins” and a straight-talking, sauvignon-drinking asylum-seeker called Perla.
No one wraps family dynamics, female angst, jokes and serious stuff into such appealing form as Keyes. A winner.
Grown Ups is a blended family saga about three brothers and their wives: Jess, the high-living matriarch, Cara, who's nursing a dark secret, and free-spirited Nell. Throw in assorted children, stepchildren and parents and stand well back. We follow the Caseys over six months and realise that, like most families, they're far from perfect. It's funny, though-provoking and will get you right in the feels.
The thing about Keyes is that she gets people. She doesn’t allow a character cross the threshold of her books without excavating their psyche and giving their story all its relevant dimensions. College-kid, Ferdia, at first high-minded and insufferable grows in depth as we read on. Our perceptions of inscrutable former womaniser, Johnny, are constantly being flipped. If we’re looking for a baddie, we can concentrate our energies into the loathsome Liam: a once successful sportsman whose weaknesses gradually become more and more pronounced. For me, the sweet and kind couple, Cara and Ed, command the most sympathy.
I am a long-time fan of Keyes's hilarious, alternately heart-warming and heartbreaking, novels. She excels at exploring and unpicking various emotionally difficult but all-too-common scenarios with kindness, humour and wisdom...
Secrets, lies, tension and inappropriate crushes simmer underneath the glossy veneer, eventually bursting out in the most dramatic way. I loved everything about it.
Her fourteenth novel, which means Keyes has been at the top of her game since her mid-1990s debut Watermelon, quite an achievement. This novel has a broader canvas, as the central characters are an extended family, the Caseys: brothers Johnny, Ed and Liam, their respective wives Jessie, Cara and Nell, and assorted children. A seemingly happy family, under the surface swirl darker currents—jealousy, affairs, eating disorders, out of control spending. But, as ever, this is tempered with Keyes' trademark humour and honesty.