Kristin Murphy spends more time on the road than anything else, shuttling her two daughters between home and her ex-husbands place. However, it’s a small price to pay to have her girls with her for the majority of the time. Kristin knows her ex is manipulative and controlling but even she underestimates quite how unpleasantly calculating he can truly be…
They Can’t Eat You For Supper is a rough diamond of a book which gives the reader a lot of food for thought even if you have not experienced the domestic issues that plague Kristin. The beginning is little scattered and lacks confidence. Lots of complicated family dynamics to absorb; Kristin has remarried (as has her ex-husband, Hutch) and there are various in-laws, step-children and household politics to get to grips with.
Notwithstanding, by about a fifth of the way in They Can’t Eat You For Supper settles and really takes off. It’s completely immersive; you feel yourself living every footstep of the journey with Kristin. There are times that the narrative trips over itself and becomes overly subjective but the novel is based on true events. The prose is passionate and instinctive, every frustration, wound and anguish that Kristin is subjected to, hits home with the reader too. It’s absolutely heartrending in places, and also highlights the utter lack of shrewd, common sense within areas of family law; for the fate of two young girls to be decided by a stranger, whose knowledge of the parents etc., is brief at best, and who is clearly ably to be influenced is simply wrong. The scenes in the courtroom are full of immediacy, crackling with tension and, unfortunately, a weary sense of futility.
Kristin’s new husband, Grey, provides balance to the toxic drama, he is the voice of calm reason and helps to slow the pace when it threatens to blow up. Although, the impact of the girls’ custody battles clearly affects both him and their marriage and you do feel quite sorry for him. Hutch, the ex-husband, is portrayed without overt judgement although clearly his actions are nastily coercive. It would have been nice to have been given a little more backstory to their relationship (they must have loved each other once?) and why their marriage broke down, aside from the obvious.
Throughout the novel, there is a tendency to switch from ‘Kristin’ to ‘the woman’ or ‘the wife’, (this also happens with other characters). First, I found it strangely disconcerting. However, for the most part it works, changing the character from subject to object and, in the case of Kirstin, amplifying her disconnect to her daughters, husband and ex, and also stultifying her personal identity.
As the book progresses and things get uglier, you do wonder how it will resolve itself, if at all. I found the twist incredibly unexpected; it could be levelled that it stretches credibility but it certainly takes the book into another direction which lightened the subject matter (I found it quite amusing, not sure if I should!) and clearly tees up a further instalment.
They Can’t Eat You For Supper is an emotive and compelling novel that wears its heart on its sleeve. Well worth a look.