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Apologize, Apologize! by Elizabeth Kelly


I’ve waited a long time to post about Apologize, Apologize!, the tragicomic first novel by Canadian author Elizabeth Kelly, because it’s hard to describe and it’s the kind of book that you should read without hearing too much about it first. Also, the readers I’ve suggested it to at the library so far didn’t love it as I did. But online paperback sales are good, so it must be finding its readers. It’s a good book to take on vacation, if you’ve built in some time for reading on the deck.
The Flanagan family of Martha’s Vineyard is dysfunctional, but so comically, wittily, and outrageously so, that you have to laugh. You will probably feel sorry for straight-laced Collie, the narrator, whose mother constantly compares him unfavorably to his younger brother Bing, who is charming, handsome, athletic, impulsive — everything that Collie is not. Here’s Collie early on in the book:

“What did my parents see in each other? In Ma’s case, I think it was a simple matter of aesthetics and disorder. Pop was a good-looking anarchist who appeared to believe in everything and nothing at the same time all the time.
Of course, I might be overthinking the matter.
‘It’s good to have a man around,’ she said, ‘In case the sewage pipe ruptures.'”

Fair warning: The novel is dark comedy, not a light-hearted laugh-a-minute, and the theme is redemption. But it’s a really good book and you should read it. (Even if you decide not to take it on vacation.)
Read The New Yorker review of Apologize, Apologize!.
Apparently, it is going to be made into a movie, too.
Check the Old Colony Library Network for availability.

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