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apologize, apologize!

by Elizabeth Kelly


apologize, apologize! has nothing whatsoever to apologize for.  This unique book features a family that really does give new depth and meaning to the word "dysfunctional." Set in the usually staid Martha's Vineyard, the Flanagan household is wild and irrepressible, with the exception of older son, Collie, who narrates their story.  Collie is constantly overwhelmed by the ceaseless action and commotion of his relatives, while he tries to fade into the woodwork because he knows that any attention drawn to him is never a very good thing. His Uncle Tom, who handles the housekeeping and cooking for the group, routinely accuses Collie of murder, demanding that he have an alibi anytime there is a killing in all of New England.  His mother, the verbose and insane Anais, is certain that anything that goes wrong is his fault, while she firmly believes that his younger brother, Bingo, is a Saint.  Yet Bingo is the worst troublemaker ever to walk the streets, and puts up such a ruckus that he seems superhuman in his ability to wreak havoc.  He delights in causing trouble at the church and the prep school, but gets away with it because it gives his parents ammunition for their argument that the nuns and priests are the really bad apples.

As Collie matures, he finds that the harder he struggles to find a sense of normalcy, the more it eludes him.  He finds a measure of peace when away at school, but that, too, is short-lived, thanks to Bingo.  His mother's father, the vastly wealthy Peregrine Lowell, has no use for most of the family, including his own daughter, Anais, who is certain that Peregrine killed her mother. Yet he takes a special interest in Collie and takes him under his wing.

Between the fist fights, the verbal blows and the alcohol use, this troupe is both over the top and under the table.  I frequently found myself feeling somewhat exhausted from their shenanigans, but it was a good kind of tired.

Kelly makes even a simple turn of phrase seem artistic, and the family relationships are vibrantly alive in vividly painted scenes.  She has done a really good job bringing the characters to life, and if the book hadn't taken a sudden surprising turn, I could see this being made into a TV series.

The turn was dramatic and sad, and the whole tone of the book changed at about the mid-way point.  It was still poignant and unique, but my laughter pretty much petered out.  I would, however, recommend the book very highly to people who enjoy a unique perspective on the world and enjoy books that pull you in emotionally.  All in all, a really good read!

The Book

Twelve/Hatchette Book Group
March 2009
Literary fiction
More at
NOTE: some strong language

The Reviewer

Laura Hinds
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Laura Hinds is an experienced freelance writer whose first novel, "Are You Gonna Eat That Banana?", just came out in 2009.
© 2009