The Other Son by Nick Alexander
Published by BIGfib in 2015
My copy: Kindle ebook
Alice has been lying to herself for years, holding fast to the belief that the needs of her family far outweigh her own. But her outwardly successful marriage hides dark secrets, and for much of her life, the children were the only reason she stuck around.
These days, though her successful banker son lives nearby, his young wife seems to do everything she can to keep Alice at bay. As for Alice’s other son, he has always been something of a stranger and has been traveling for so long that Alice isn’t even sure what continent he is on anymore.
Alice can’t help but wonder if the effort she expends presenting a united front to the outside world is actually helping anyone and what would happen if she suddenly stopped pretending. Could life, like the novels she devours, hold surprises in its closing chapters? Has the time finally come for Alice to put her own needs first?
I have seen this author’s novels before but never read any of them, and I thought this one sounded intriguing so downloaded it onto my Kindle. I ended up reading the whole book in just a day as I found myself slowly sucked into this book without even realising it. I was gripped – and in fact I nearly missed my tube stop for work which is a good complement!
This book focuses almost entirely on Alice and her family – and they really do have a bit of everything, from the domineering, offensive husband Ken through to the two sons who are complete polar opposites. The characters do come across as a bit clichéd at times, but I found that it worked in the context of this novel which was deliberately designed to look at people and their lives. The novel is told from different characters’ points of view – but always in the third person – and this gave us a really three-dimensional look at all the characters and I felt I got to know and understand them more and more as the novel progressed. I also liked the way that you slowly build up a more rounded picture of Alice, who isn’t quite as I had first thought.
The dilemma presented in the story is an interesting one – can a person really move on and start a new life once they are virtually in their 70s? – and I found it quite refreshing to read a novel that really focused on an older woman and her life. I could also really relate to some of the scenarios, including the son who dreads having his mother round as she always finds the negative in everything! And it is also clever how both the sons – although they are so different – really just want their parents’ approval.
I really loved this book overall and did find I couldn’t put it down. The ending was perhaps a bit too nicely tied up for me, but I will definitely be reading more of Alexander’s novels.