By Caroline Hulse
*** Publication Date 27-November-2018 ***
The Adults starts out with a brochure description of The Happy Forest. A blissful place for people to get away from the city and experience the outdoors. The next page gives us the transcript of a 999 call (911 in the US) on Christmas Eve from the none too happy Happy Forest. It’s a mystery that will unfold in the rest of the book. A story of extremely bad behavior by children and adults alike.
At first glance, The Adults reminded me in some ways of The Dinner by Herman Koch. The setting is a beautiful one, but the dark underlying behavior of the adults in the room is disturbing. Unlike The Dinner, this foursome is more lighthearted, the situation is less dire and far less sinister. Alex and Matt are a fairly happy couple cohabitating in Alex’s home in Nottingham, England. Alex has never been married. Matt is divorced from Claire. They have a seven year old daughter named Scarlett. Scarlett of course wants her parents back together. She has an imaginary friend named Posey, a five foot tall purple rabbit, with whom she converses regularly. Posey is as real to Scarlett as you or I would be. Claire is cohabitating with Patrick, a barrister who is obsessively competitive and concerned about outward appearances.
For some crazy reason this extended/blended family decides to holiday together at The Happy Forest. It is in this close setting that the chaos ensues. There are underlying fears and concerns that the new partners have when they view the couple of Matt and Claire in a household setting together. There is the child who is not terribly fond of the new partners and only wants what any child would want, her parents back the way they were. Especially once she does have them under one roof once again. Of course there is also the inability to be oneself when you are living in a small, vacation lodge with people you barely know. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Some of my favorite moments in this novel were the conversations Scarlett would have with Posey. How Scarlett could so cleanly divide her personality into Posey, the naughty child egging her on, and herself, the child trying to get Posey to behave. That her parents did not discourage nor encourage this behavior is admirable, until you realize how out of control it has become. The adults in this book all needed a good smacking around at different portions, or perhaps a time out, and definitely no more alcohol!
Caroline Hulse has created real people who have flaws and issues just like the rest of us. It was an engaging story the way it was laid out with interspersing details about the 999 call and the players involved. While the climax was revealed before the story even began, it was enough of a tidbit to make me want to get to the end to find out what really transpired between this group of people. Adults behaving badly can end up with someone getting hurt. This story played out perfectly and wrapped up nicely without lingering questions. Definitely a good read.