Man and Boy, by Tony Parsons
(Touchstone, May 2001. Paperback, 368 pages)
Man and Boy by Tony Parsons is the story of how a man becomes a father to his son, and a son to a father. The affection Harry feels for his family, all of it, is obvious from the first page. As evident is Harry’s sense of self. He comes to realise that what he feels isn’t always enough, though. Approaching his thirtieth birthday, Harry is lost in between. He is no longer a child, but does not feel properly mature. He is married, but is unsure what that means. He loves his family, but isn’t quite sure why.
But, Harry knows himself, even if ‘himself’ baffles him, and that thread is what makes this story so brilliant: Harry’s utter honesty. He makes mistakes and owns up to them. He feels and is ready to share that fact. He loves unconditionally, which is both uplifting and heartbreaking all at once.
A month before his birthday, full of BIG questions and doubts, Harry makes a mistake. Then, within the course of thirty days, he loses everything he considered important. Over the next six months, he gains it all back, but not necessarily in the same form. Harry learns to be a father, not just a man with a young boy. He begins to understand his own father. He figures out what is important, and who, and he learns what love is.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Harry’s voice was so real. At times, his observations were funny, at others, wrenching. I forgave him his mistake. I hated his wife. I cheered Harry’s successes and secretly plotted Gina’s failure. I loved that none of the characters were heroes (except for the possible exception of Harry’s dad). They were all ordinary people and could be wholly uncompromising. Not a one of them changed their mind for the sake of the plot or story; they were all themselves to the end. Even Harry—though he grew. At the end of the book, he was still Harry, still ‘himself’, but a much more content version.
There is a sequel, Man and Wife. I am not sure if I want to continue the story, however, as I was satisfied with who Harry was at the end of this chapter.