Wild Abandon by Joe Dunthorne
Random House • $25 • ISBN 9781400066841
Wild Abandon, the second novel from a writer who’s been called “the British Dave Eggers,” is as fun and quirky as its cover.
A cross between The Family Fang and Drop City, with a strong sibling relationship at its core, Wild Abandon tells the story of the Riley family. Don and Freya Riley founded the commune they live in, somewhere in Wales. But for their two children, especially 17-year-old Kate, life there is less than idyllic. Dunthorne is a poet as well as a novelist, and his writing is perceptive and imaginative. He’s pitch perfect when depicting the trials of adolescence, compounded by the difficulties of being even more different from your peers than the average teen already feels—like when Kate finally lets her boyfriend see her home.
Kate tried to imagine Geraint’s thoughts. It struck her that the big house didn’t even look that big. The lumpy whitewashed walls, patches of psoriatic flakiness here and there, windowsills made from large unpainted slabs, moss on the roof tiles: it was basically a cottage. A cottage that had been known to sleep forty-two. She watched his expression change as his expectations met reality.
“The term Rave House might have been a bit misleading,” she said.
“So you live with these people?”
“Some of them are only visiting. But yes.”
“Which room’s yours?”
She pointed to her first-floor bedroom, through the window of which her Meat Is Murder poster was just visible.
His eyes widened. “And who’s that in the window?”
She looked. Albert was standing in his bedroom window, arms by his side, staring at Geraint with the death-eyes, which was something he’d been practicing.
“My brother. He’s seen you. You’d better go.”
“How old is he?”
“Eleven. But surprisingly strong.”
Geraint laughed and looked at Kate, and by the time he turned back to the window, Albert was gone.
“You should probably pop the trunk,” she said.
As she got out and went round the back of the car she heard, through the open front door, Albert’s footsteps clumping down the stairs. She yanked her bike out just as Albert came outside. He was holding a purple water pistol, a Glock, upright in both hands in the manner of the televised FBI.
“Go, go, go! He’ll kill you!” Kate said, and much to her pleasure Geraint did go, slightly for the show of it, but also, she thought, slightly for real—wheel-spinning, gravel pinging against Kate’s ankles as he showed off his Punto’s nippy turning radius with his trunk still wide open.
What are you reading this week?