This is a lovely middle grade book, about a girl with a hopeless father. At first it seems like he’s been a little bit off-balance since losing their mother and his antics are amusing, while Martha’s eleven-year-old determination to take charge is endearing. Her five year old brother Tug is a happy-go-lucky child who brings a lot of warmth and humour. Things might not be perfect, but you can see there is a strong family bond and they’ll get by, despite the interfering grandparents.
But then things get darker. Dad’s ‘antics’ become embarrassing and his excuses are no longer acceptable. He begins to neglect his children, then, after an embarrassing incident, Martha realises that his problems are due to drinking. She decides to take charge and help her father come off the booze – but it isn’t easy. Her father now starts deceiving her as well himself and things spiral out of control, until social services are brought in and Martha and Tug go and live with their interfering grandparents.
Although life is much easier now, the two are not happy. Martha is conflicted about her feelings for her father and Tug is uncomfortable in the new regime of discipline. The only is hope is that their father can sort himself out, but his behaviour has become so bad that he has a court order preventing him from seeing them.
Despite the bleakness of the story at times, it is still full of warmth and humour, and it will have you smiling happily one moment, sadly the next. There are some wonderful moments with Martha’s best friend Marcus, a cross-dressing thespian, who is a brilliantly drawn character.
It is a realistic story about the problems of dealing with an alcoholic parent, beautifully written and a joy to read.
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