A woman goes over a waterfall, a video goes viral, a family goes into meltdown — life is about to get a lot more complicated for the Parker family.
Like all families, the Parkers of Thunder Bay have had their share of complications. But when matriarch Kate Parker miraculously survives plummeting over a waterfall in a barrel — a feat captured on a video that goes viral — it’s Kate’s family who tumbles into chaos under the spotlight. Her prodigal daughter returns to town. Her 16-year-old granddaughter gets caught up in an online relationship with a man she has never met. Her husband sifts through their marriage to search for what sent his wife over the falls. Her adopted son fears losing the only family he’s ever known. Then there is Kate, who once made a life-changing choice and now fears her advancing dementia will rob her of memories from when she was most herself. Set over the course of four calamitous days, Amy Jones’s big-hearted first novel follows the Parkers’ misadventures as catastrophe forces them to do something they never thought possible — act like a family.
We’re All in This Together is one of those reads that (excuse the shark nod), you will delight in sinking your teeth into. Award-winning Canadian writer Amy Jones has crafted, rather masterfully, an all-at-once funny, heartbreaking, and wonderfully plotted novel about a family you will not soon forget.
The novel begins with an introduction to Finn Parker, who is forced back to her hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario, upon hearing that her mother is in a coma. Finn’s mother, Katherine, has become a bizarre media sensation due to a video of her launching over a waterfall going viral. Finn, already struggling with memories of the last time she saw her family- which involved an awful blow-up with her abrasive sister-now has to return home as the daughter of new North American viral sensation: The Conqueror of Kakabeka Falls.
We’re All in This Together weaves together a complex and potent story about an almost-deteriorating family. While it seems, initially, as though the story is going to focus mainly upon Finn, Jones takes the readers in unexpected directions with different members of the Parker family. The author pulls pieces of the Parker family apart to examine multiple family members, telling their intersecting stories and their most intimate, unforgivable, and searing moments. Jones thoroughly explores the different veins of the the family: everything from Katherine’s complicated history of love to her current state of mental health; Finn and her sister’s extremely volatile and aching sibling history; Finn’s teenage niece’s call to action on ecological and environmental concerns; to that of adopted brother Shawn’s place as a ‘Parker’, to his current relationship with wife Katriina. There is, quite simply, a lot to unravel and appreciate in this story. While potentially daunting (and potentially swamped) with an alternating roster of character storylines and past-and-present timelines operating, Jones smoothly maintains the various story angles and reveals.
Overall, We’re All In This Together is just a terrific and out-of-the-ordinary novel. An accomplished read, Jones’ novel is very sharp, very funny, with some major heartrending moments. Any readers who enjoy their Canadian lit, family-centred tragicomedies, or enjoy the work of authors such as Maria Semple, Jonathan Tropper, Miriam Toews, or Elinor Lipman, might especially savour this read.
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Canada via First Reads in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.