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Review - Make Do and Mend by Samuel Miles McGee

I bought this book on KU because it had an intriguing premise; a beloved senior member of the family trying to make things right for her grandson from beyond the grave. It was inventive in a way I've not seen for a long time.

The book was hard to get into at first. The danger of having a first person telling someone else's story, and trying to convey the feelings of that person, putting words into their mouths, really getting across the emotions and conflicts of them and the people around them, is the risk of keeping the reader at arms' length. And this did happen to me. I wanted to hear Archie's story, but the way it was told meant that POV's switched all the time, sometimes mid-paragraph. I know a lot of authors do it (or used to - see Ken Follett) but I've always struggled with that concept.

That being said, I did finish the book, and I hugely admired the storytelling. Each character was compelling, from Barrett's tendency to lose his temper, to his repellent parents, to Archie's delicate mental state and their attempts to spice up their failing marriage.

It all sounds a bit bleak, and there are some bleak elements to it. Death, grief, mental health and ageing are tough topics. This can't be denied, but they are counteracted by humour, by unexpectedly sexy bedroom scenes, and the gentle, non-judgemental, loving support of the deceased Delphine. At her death, she had been raddled with Alzheimer's disease, her mind all but gone, but in death she is strong and determined again. Her love for Archie is wonderful as she tries to help him navigate the problems building up around him.

There's no denying this book is a class act for a debut novel; bold storytelling style, affection for its characters and inventiveness abound. It didn't quite work for me but I would definitely recommend it, especially for book club. The blurb calls it a "contemporary fairy-tale," but I would call it a paranormal family drama.

Book cover for Make Do and Mend, with two faces rising as steam from a teacup.


They say hindsight is 20/20. Well, the hindsight bestowed by death is better. Delphine Canterbury never wanted to die, and her grandson, her Archie, had dreaded the day’s eventuality. With Grief trailing him as an incessant companion, demonic in-laws determined to bring his husband, Barrett, back into their piety, his marriage shattering around him, and his mental state a chemical deficient wasteland, Archie Canterbury wonders if he can ever catch a break. In death Delphine Canterbury can see absolutely everything. And she means everything. In this contemporary gay fairy-tale Archie, a convinced atheist, believes that his grandmother is gone now. Little does he know Delphine isn’t truly gone. Now that she has died, she can see every part of existence at large, and every facet of life. And she is determined to fix it for him.

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