In her latest spellbinding family story, author Joanna Trollope presents us with two women who love a famous pianist, Richie Rossiter. When Richie dies suddenly, Chrissie and their three daughters are naturally shocked and grief-stricken. Even in her sorrow, though, Chrissie realizes that the fact that they never quite got around to getting married in the 23 years they've lived together in their cozy London home will complicate her life now. Although the girls --- Tamsin, Delia (nicknamed Dilly) and Amy --- were all registered as Rossiters and despite the fact that Chrissie pleaded with Richie to marry her, he refused. In fact, he refused to divorce his wife, Margaret, saying that where he grew up, divorce was against tradition and it would take him time to accustom himself to the idea of divorcing Margaret. But the years rolled by, and he took no action.
Now, as Chrissie and her daughters try to deal with the aftermath of their beloved partner and father's death, most of them ignore the fact that two people once intimately connected with Richie have not been notified of his death. However, youngest daughter Amy has the strong sense that it would be unfair for Margaret and her son with Richie to hear of his death on the news. She resolves to take action.
Margaret has done quite well with her Margaret Rossiter Entertainment Agency in Tynemouth. She has a beautiful home and a gracious, although somewhat solitary, lifestyle. She still wears her wedding ring and nurtures a low-key indwelling yearning for Richie, her love for him and agony over his abandonment of her, and their son has receded in her day-to-day life. Her major concern is Scott, her grown son with Richie. Scott has a good job and his own flat, but seems to lack drive and commitment.
When Margaret receives a call from Amy, just the fact that her husband's daughter is calling her is a shock since Richie's two families have had no communication or connection whatsoever. But when Amy tells her that Richie has died, Margaret is stunned. She travels immediately to Scott's flat to deliver the news in person. While Scott is surprised and saddened, his sorrow is complicated by the fact that, after Richie left when Scott was a young teen, father and son mostly lost contact. He worries about his mother, though, confronting Margaret with his long-held suspicion that she has waited these 23 years for Richie to return to her --- a suggestion Margaret hotly contests, at least outwardly.
When Margaret, accompanied by Scott, attends Richie's funeral, the two families do not interact. Yet their silent standoff sets off unexpected emotions in two of the family members attending the funeral; these feelings will change the future of some relationships. At the service, Margaret feels her place as an outsider while Chrissie is surrounded and supported by Richie's second family's friends. However, the dynamics are drastically changed due to revelations during the reading of Richie's will.
As always, author Joanna Trollope skillfully wields her magical ability to express the nuances of relationships and make characters live and breathe on the page. Amy Rossiter is a particularly intriguing character, whose strength allows her to act on her convictions despite considerable roadblocks. Even a minor character like Kevin, Chrissie's friend's partner, is vital, funny and endearing, despite his brief walk-on part. The fact that Richie's motivations for certain decisions are not presented in a neat package adds a pleasant bit of thought provocation. THE OTHER FAMILY is an absorbing tale of triumphant redemption and unexpected connections.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (firstname.lastname@example.org) on January 14, 2011
The Other Family