By David Nicholls
Harper October 2014
Received for review from TLC Book Tours and the publisher
Douglas Petersen knows that change is on the horizon for his small family. His only son Albie will soon leave for college and Douglas and his wife Connie will have readjust to a quiet house. The Petersen family is scheduled to embark on a European tour when Connie drops a major bombshell: she is considering leaving him. They decide to go on their trip anyway. While his wife sees it as one final hurrah for the Petersen family, Douglas is determined to win back his wife and keep his family together.
There are many books about the beginning of relationships - the butterflies before the big date, first kisses, and the phone calls that last for hours. It's harder to find a book about the moment when you still love someone, but you have fallen out of love with them. Us gives us a complete picture of a family by showing them at various points during their lives together. As Douglas tries to save his family, he thinks back to meeting his wife, their early days of dating, and the years they have spent raising their son.
Douglas is really clueless about a lot of things, particularly when he tries to wrap his scientist mind around the artistic leanings of his wife and son. But he does have a delightfully wry sense of humor. When Douglas and a friend discuss a statue of Ursula, the virgin saint, we get this exchange:
'The moral is, don't go to Cologne,' said Freja.
'I went to a conference in Cologne. I thought it was a charming city.'
'But were any of you virgins?'
'Well, we were all biochemists, so yes - almost certainly.'
The frustrating thing about this story is just how long it takes each family member to really try to connect with the others. While Connie and Albie are close, Douglas has trouble understanding them and they make little effort to connect with him. I wanted better for all of them and I wished that they had taken the time before their European getaway to make an effort. Each one of them are irritating with their selfishness but their inability to articulate what they need seems all too easy to understand.
David Nicholls has a unique ability to truly immerse readers in the lives of his characters. By the time you close one of his books, you feel as if you know these people inside and out. The writing is lovely and Us perfectly combines the story of love, commitment, and family with an entertaining jaunt through Europe.
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