I picked up this book because of its cover, which caught my eyes, while I was browsing at Borders on a lonely Saturday afternoon. To my delight, the book did not disappoint me at all. Despite the fact that the story line is predictable, I found myself glued to it until the last page.
Man and Boy is a story of Harry Silver, his separation from his wife and his struggle as a single parent to raise his son.
The author, 52-year old Tony Parsons, a columnist with Daily Mirror, has written three novels before coming up with his international bestseller.
The book is set in London in the late 90s. Thirty-year-old Harry is completely devoid of emotion and practical sense and thinks that the world is his oyster. He seems to have it all – a successful career as TV producer, a beautiful wife, Gina, and an adorable four-year-old son, Pat. And to top it all, he drives around town in a sporty red MGF – a car which most men dream of owning. (I am digressing a little here to know – why do men need fancy cars to boost their image…err ego?)
However, Harry screwed things up when he had a one-night stand with a colleague. His wife walks out on him, leaving Harry to look after their young son after she discovered his little rendezvous. Gina, who has a penchant for everything Japanese, then heads for the land of the rising sun to pursue an unfulfilled dream of becoming a foreign correspondent.
Suddenly, Harry’s world begins to crumble. He finds himself an unemployed single father and in a financial mess with the prospect of a divorce looming before him. He failed to win Gina back despite apologising to her. On the other hand, his parents could not understand why he and Gina decide to go their separate ways. After all, didn’t they – the devoted parents – raise him in a stable environment?
Harry begins to pick up the pieces from his failed marriage once he stops wallowing in self-pity; most importantly, to be a good parent to his son. He strives to provide a decent living environment for Pat in his bid to fight for permenant custody of him. He takes up a job that gives him flexibility in order not to compromise his son’s interest. He does everything a mother is supposed to do for her child – from cooking for his son to giving him a bath. Pat initially resists him and throws tantrums because he misses him mother very much. In short, Harry realises that raising a child is a daunting task.
When Gina returns from Japan with a new man in tow, Harry threatens to fight for sole custody of Pat. However, he soon realises that loving someone is about setting her free. Loving someone is about letting go. He eventually agrees to a shared custody of their son.
The subplot of this novel comes in a form of Cyd, a divorcee. This American single mother eventually finds her way to Harry’s broken heart. The book offers its suspense elements when Pat is involved in an unfortunate accident at the park. The way the author describes Harry’s anxiety and his state of mind then will move you to tears. Well, I cried when I read this particular scene.
In my opinion, Man & Boy is a predictable story – a story which most of us probably have heard or read. In fact, the story reminds me of ‘Kramer versus Kramer’. However, Parsons retains his originality with his wit and his writing heartfelt in its simplicity. Parsons takes his readers on an emotional roller coaster ride from the first page right until the last. He skillfully narrates the trials and tribulations of a single father in a demanding modern world.
Apart from the coincidence of Pat and Peggy (Cyd’s daughter) attending the same school, which seems a bit far-fetched to me, the storyline is carefully developed to retain the reader’s interest throughout the book. Overall, it is very well written, funny, and heart-breakingly moving.
This is a must-read to those who are suffering from premature mid-life crisis. It’s good for women too because the book guides you right to a man’s heart. Parsons gives you a reality jolt and a subtle reminder not to take anything for granted. Highly recommended.
Title: Man & Boy
Author: Tony Parsons
Price: RM35.90 (Borders)
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (344 Pages)