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Novels from current Scottish authors are assumed not only to be full of the kind of dialect that on screen would require subtitles, but also fraught with edgy violence, rage and angst. Donovan's delightful debut domestic comedy has the dialect all right (though it's very easy to follow after the first few pages) and a few darker undertones, but is essentially sunny and engaging. Jimmy is a Glasgow house painter, a genial giant of a man who seems happy in his marriage to Liz and in his musical teenage daughter, Anne Marie. But he yearns for something beyond the quotidian and finds it in the local Buddhist center, where he is soon spending much too much of his time, in the view of his wife and daughter, learning to meditate and hanging out with the "lamas." Soon he is separated from his family, while Anne Marie becomes involved with a Pakistani school friend in an all-absorbing music contest, and Liz falls into a flirtation that leads to a family crisis. Donovan's sense of the intimacies and pleasures of these small lives is acute; her ear for their talk, alternately tough and tender, is sharp; and she manages to make her little family at once likable and intensely vulnerable. American readers may be astonished to find how much, especially in terms of popular culture, they have in common with contemporary Glaswegians.
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Conflicting needs, desires, and explanations threaten to tear a seemingly ordinary Scottish family apart in this pitch-perfect debut novel from an exiting new voice. Jimmy, a hardworking, fun-loving family man, catches his wife and adolescent daughter off guard when he begins meditating at the Buddhist Centre instead of hoisting a few with his pals down at the local pub in his working-class Glasgow neighborhood. Unable to fathom her husband's sudden quest for spiritual enlightenment, Liz not only struggles with her elderly mother's failing health but her own intense longing for another child. Poised on the threshold of young womanhood, 13-year-old Anne Marie is caught between her parents as she attempts to forge her own identity in secondary school. Alternately narrated in the voices of the three main characters, this humorous, compassionate, and insightful tribute to the ties that bind will delight readers undaunted by the authentic Scottish dialect in which it is written. Margaret Flanagan
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