Adult Onset

Adult Onset

A Novel

Paperback - 2015
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From the acclaimed, bestselling author of two beloved classics,  Fall On Your Knees and  The Way the Crow Flies ,  Adult Onset  is a powerful drama that makes vividly real the pressures of life and love, and the undercurrents that run deep through even the most devoted families.
     Mary Rose MacKinnon--nicknamed MR or "Mister"--is a successful author who has opted to put aside her career in her 40s and devote herself to her young family. She lives in a comfortable urban neighbourhood with her partner, a busy theatre director, and their two children, trying valiantly and often hilariously to balance the demands of (mostly) solo parenting with the needs of her relentlessly spry but elderly parents. As a child, she suffered from an illness, long since cured and "filed separately" in her mind. But as domestic frustrations mount, she experiences a flare-up of forgotten symptoms which compel her to rethink her own childhood. Over the course of one outwardly ordinary week, Mister's world threatens to unravel, as the spectre of violence raises its head with dangerous implications for her and her children. Crafted with humour and unerring emotional accuracy,  Adult Onset  is a contemporary tale by turns searing and uplifting.
Publisher: Toronto :, Vintage Canada ,, [2015]
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780345808288
Branch Call Number: FIC MAC
Characteristics: 384 pages ; 25 cm + [12 books with discussion guide]


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Mar 26, 2017

I love A-M MacDonald’s writing style which humorously balances tragedy and daily routine, and evokes so much of the protagonist’s world in a phrase …“a scintillating sort of pain like a vampire wakened at noon”. Not a simile that would have occurred to me, but it elaborates greatly on the character’s life. The story itself explores the mind’s split between the past and the present. Many times exist concurrently, with the protagonist’s emotional flashbacks to previous traumas and her fear of continuing it forward with her own children. There's plenty about the muddle of family and memories and self-discovery. I appreciated her look at life through both ends of the telescope …“you can’t know when you’re twenty-three which friends will be there for the duration”.

Jan 29, 2017

Every once in a while I slog through a book, despite the fact that I'm not enjoying it, either because it was recommended by someone I respect or there is a glimmer of promise somewhere in the text. This was one of those books that paid off in the last few chapters.

Initially, the voice frustrated me and the content rubbed a little too close to the bone. After surviving parenting my children through their challenging years, it was painful to listen to another mother struggle through her day, equally monotonous and filled with fits of fury. The author's voice was a bombastic shock to my nervous system. And yet there enough regular spots of humor that caught me off-guard to keep me listening.

It wasn't until the end that I finally understood why the book came to me so highly recommended (I need to have words with that friend, pronto). Suffice it to say that the story redeemed itself and offered just the right amount of insight into this hamster wheel we tread as adults.

VaughanPLKasey Nov 09, 2016

Acclaimed Canadian author and playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald’s most recent novel closely resembles her own life, as it follows Mary-Rose MacKinnon through a couple of days in her life.

An unrelenting look into the day-to-day - and moment-to-moment - struggles of living with depression and anxiety: Mary-Rose’s seemingly idyllic middle class urban existence, taking care of her two young children, along with her theatre director wife, is a regularly harrowing experience as she battles with her inner demons and does her best to remain afloat and on top of her family’s needs.

May 12, 2016

I liked reading about Mary Rose's experiences as a queer parent, and I think a lot of readers will be able to relate to her imposter syndrome-y feelings of not measuring up to other parents. I also loved the distinctive Toronto setting.

That being said, I found that the story took a long time to get started, and that it was practically over by the time I understood what kind of payoff to expect. Also, some parts were quite hard to read due to the subject matter.

WVMLlibrarianCathy Nov 02, 2015

Another beautifully written & powerful novel from Ann-Marie MacDonald. It explores the psychology of modern day parenting & confronting the demons of one's own childhood. An emotionally draining but satisfying book.

Sep 24, 2015


May 10, 2015

I rarely fail to finish a book, but this one was still wanting and wandering half way through, and flipping forward (again which I don't normally do) saw more of the same. Enjoyed her other offerings.

brianreynolds Apr 09, 2015

It's badly understated to say Fall on Your Knees and The Way the Crow Flies are hard acts to follow so I wasn't surprised when midway through MacDonald's Adult Onset I was liking but not loving the journey. Nor was I surprised that by the end I was haunted—that by some strange unscientific process she had written a personal and powerful message directly to me, to my self as a parent, to my self as a child—messages too personal to talk about here. But I think, besides creating interesting characters and an interesting story (which ought to be enough for any author in my opinion) her juuxtaposition of modern, connected, helicopetering, Montisorri parents with the post-depression, spare-the-rod-and-spoil-the-child variety illuminates very similar frustrations and anxieties in rearing young human beings. A medical doctor once counselled me that expressing anger was both normal and healthy for both the parent and child. That may be true, but MacDonald's brilliant story is a beautifully told parable of guilt and fear—regardless of the generation or whether it's healthy or not. A must read...

Apr 01, 2015

I was rather torn as to the rating I was going to give this book. On one hand it's a very well written story, it's compelling and it draws you in to lives of the characters. On the other, I didn't feel empathy for them or really understand (on a personal level, not an intellectual one) what was going on.
At many points in the book I thought Mary Rose should just get on with life, to stop the denial and move toward a solution. And then I'd think that she was and that was the whole point of the story, though she still annoyed me.
I always find that stories about motherhood, either the want of or the hardships of or the love of, is completely lost on me. I have no context in my own life for any of that and I lose the emotion that books are trying to convey about such subjects and I think miss much of the potential of such stories.
So, I compromised on the rating. A 4 for the writing and being able to create such an engaging story and a 2 for the actual storyline make it a 3.

Feb 04, 2015

Mary Rose Mackinnon is a 48-year-old married lesbian living in Toronto with two young children. She is a successful author of Young Adult novels and is currently in semi-retirement, staying home to look after her children while her wife is away on business. Mary Rose is also prone to panic attacks and fits of rage. During the course of a stressful week home alone with the kids, she strives mightily not to succumb to her fits and hurt her children.

This is not a happy book, although it is sometimes hilariously funny. The first chapter in particular, when we meet Mary Rose and her children, made me laugh out loud many times. Ann-Marie MacDonald's prose is brilliantly and lovingly crafted, even when describing simple scenes like getting a two-year-old ready to go outside for a walk. As the novel progresses, we learn through flashbacks about Mary Rose's childhood as the middle daughter of a Canadian air force officer and his Lebanese-Canadian wife. Her mother was also a woman with a nasty temper, and MacDonald weaves a tale of depression and rage carrying on into a second generation. Mary Rose is desperate to break the cycle.

There is not much plot to speak of; this is more a portrait of a family than a narrative tale of happenings and actions. Mary Rose loves her parents and her siblings, but at times she hates them, too. She has to find a way to reconcile who her parents were then and are now (octogenarians with fading minds) with what they did to her and and did not do for her.

At times, you wonder why she doesn't see a therapist instead of trying to sort it out on her own. I think the point MacDonald is trying to make is that we all have issues with our parents (and our children) and owe it to them and to ourselves to understand how we fit into our families. And that, I think, is the impact of this book. Although Mary Rose's situation is rather unique, there are aspects of her family dynamic that we can all relate to.

This is a thoughtful, excellently written novel that will bear multiple readings. It will take time to tease out the ideas that will resonate with each reader, but I think it will be well worth the effort.

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