I’ve been a huge fan of Lisa Jewell for more than a decade and can distinctly remember reading my first book of hers. I was having a bit of a crap Christmas and was alone on Boxing Day. My Mum had bought me one of Lisa’s early novels, One Hit Wonder, so I picked it up to have a read. I remember finding myself so invested in her character's stories that they seemed completely and utterly real to me. It’s a quality I’ve found in Lisa’s writing ever since and new novel, The Making Of Us, is no different, if not even more so.
The Making Of Us is a story of many people, unconnected and completely different to begin until it’s revealed each has one thing in common. They share the same donor father. All are at complicated stages of their lives, Lydia, 29, has gone from rags to riches but is desperately lonely and struggling with her past, Dean, 21, has just become a father, but lost the baby's mother in tragic circumstances and is struggling to bond with his daughter, Robyn, the youngest at 18 has moved to London to study medicine, a path she was so sure of until she was on it. In alternating chapters we hear from each of them, as well as Maggie, whose close friend Daniel is terminally ill and has asked her for help to fulfil his dying wish.
Wow, this book is an emotional roller coaster right from the start. The plot is so brutally human and complex yet Lisa Jewell absolutely pulls it off. Once again her skill at creating completely believable, relatable and flawed characters is perfect. I love alternating viewpoints when done well, and in The Making Of Us all four narratives both stand out individually and intertwine to create a heart wrenching and uplifting tale of identity and family. Each chapter is titled with the name of the character we are hearing from, although I do think they have strong enough voices to let the reader differentiate anyway.
I loved all the characters in this book, though in particular Lydia who is so far away from myself in many ways yet surprisingly familiar too. I also really liked Dean, the young brother she discovers through a donor sibling registry, and the developing relationship between the two of them is gorgeous, awkward but touchingly beautiful all at once. What I always love about Jewell’s characters is how layered they are, and how she isn’t afraid to show their weak and at times pathetic sides-the ones we all have but hide from the world, making them all the more stronger for it. You get the feeling while reading that these people could be ones you pass every day.
The Making Of Us is at times very sad and touching, but also incredibly hopeful and positive for the future. By the end of the book you’ll feel you’ve experienced these peoples journey, you’ll be behind them all the way and will leave wishes them the best in their future. This is a novel not about a donor father and his dying wish, but one of identity, knowing yourself, finding a sense of belonging and the ties that bind people to each other. It’s compelling from start to finish and I was completely absorbed throughout. I’ve never been disappointed by Lisa Jewell’s work, and I certainly wasn’t by The Making Of Us. With each new book I think ‘this is the best yet’ and that’s how I felt after turning the last page. This is a book I highly recommend.
Published by Century (UK) May 2011
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review