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Don’t ‘Abandon’ this book

WIT, WISDOM ARE WOVEN INTO A GLORIOUS READ

BY NICHOLAS ADDISON THOMAS

FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR

THE WIT and wisdom behind Joe Dunthorne’s authorial approach is not lost on his fans, especially with the arrival of “Wild Abandon,” the hotly anticipated follow-up to “Submarine,” an internationally adored read about teen angst and familial wreckage. In this sophomore production, the Welshman weaves a tale just as insightful as his first fictional vessel, and it’s all kinds of glorious.

Central to this story is one Don Riley, founder and supervisor of a once-thriving, communal-living property deep in the British countryside. Struggling to maintain the facility, as well as his 20-year marriage, Don faces the possibility of mutiny on the family front. In the proverbial sinking ship is wife Freya, a soft-spoken woman uncertain about her future; daughter Kate, a bookworm experiencing public school for the first time; and Albert, an impressionable 11-year-old who waxes on about the end of the world when a stranger joins the community. The thread by which Don’s family hangs threatens to snap as Kate inches toward the “real world,” Albert adopts a Chicken Little mindset and Freya mulls over being single while inhabiting a mud yurt. The only solution Don can come up with is to throw the biggest party of his life and hope it kick-starts a new future.

Not since Zadie Smith has a first-time novelist opened the door to literary stardom so fast and so wide, and yet Dunthorne did just that in 2008 with “Submarine,” a breathtaking book that found its way into motion picture form. A wonderful addition to the emerging author scene, the young author takes his talents to another level with “Wild Abandon,” an impressive work of fiction that explores the highs and lows of family functionality. Specifically, he explores the fragility of relationships, fitting in when your family does not, early love and the transient nature of social norms. That he does all of this with a voice that’s wise beyond its years is all the more impressive.

If “Wild Abandon” doesn’t make Dunthorne a household name, I don’t know what will. Using human nature as a compass, the author creates a remarkably realistic world in which the characters seem lifelike and the action seems all-too-familiar. And that’s the real beauty of this book— it showcases the unraveling of a family and the chaos that ensues, while staying honest and introspective about the need for love and structure

in a world that often offers neither. A gifted writer, Dunthorne puts his talents on display in “Wild Abandon,” leaving readers to think it can’t possibly get any better than this.

Nicholas Addison Thomas is a freelance writer in Fredericksburg.

WILD ABANDON

By Joe Dunthorne

(Random House, $25,  336 pp.)

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/books/2012/03/22/dont-%e2%80%98abandon%e2%80%99-this-book/

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