BOOK REVIEW | TONI JORDAN’S OUR TINY, USELESS HEARTS

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By Eisha Gupta

 

Award-winning author Toni Jordan has perfected the art of mixing romantic comedies with wit and poignancy in two of her previous works, Addition and Fall Girl. Her latest outing, Our Tiny, Useless Hearts, has all those ingredients and is sure to fetch the writer more accolades.

 

The novel follows Janice Brankovic’s time at her sister Caroline’s place during the course of a weekend. Caroline’s marriage is falling apart after her husband Henry falls for their children’s schoolteacher, Martha. Their neighbours, Lesley and Craig, have trust issues that affect their sex life, which Janice gets caught up in as she babysits her nieces, Mercedes and Paris. Her ex-husband Alec shows up as well, and this motley crew of characters take you on a ride that you don’t want to get off of. Secrets are spilled, sexual awakenings are celebrated, and emotions kept under tight control are pushed over the edge.

 

As the protagonist, Janice stands out from a pool of similarly charming and flawed human beings. She has a deep empathy for people, which arises not least from her work as a microbiologist. Her character mentally retreats into her work at the lab when she is confronted with embarrassing and awkward situations, a trait that adds more flavour to her character and works brilliantly. The story of her and Alec’s separation is powerful and crushing to read.

 

You can’t help but hope for a happy ending for Janice, so it came as no surprise that I cried when things seemed to change for her in the final pages. Janice is raw, vulnerable, honest and very, very witty. She is often the only person with a good head on her shoulders as everything around her is sucked into chaos. Her childhood is filled with moments of pain and anguish that leave a mark on her relationship with Caroline, at least from her sister’s point of view.

 

However, the children steal the limelight on more than one occasion. Mercedes and Paris love princesses, but are also precocious in their ability to see clearly through situations and to speak what’s on their mind. They are funny and real, and have no qualms in one-upping the grown-ups.

 

Caroline, Henry, Martha, Lesley, Craig and Alec are people you might know in your own life. Alec in particular comes across as a considerate and thoughtful person who is also a dreamboat. I didn’t have a smidge of sympathy for Henry until Janice described the physiological changes he had undergone as a person in love. The science and microbiology was woven seamlessly into the narrative.

 

The only problem I encountered while reading the book was keeping a tab on who said what in response to whom, mostly whenever the characters were assembled in the same place. Having to backtrack and pick up the thread of the conversation between two characters in the middle of other characters was a tad difficult, but it can be forgiven as the novel itself is vivacious and beautifully written. The book should be developed as a sitcom because it would come across really well on television. It might be a short season but you would want to relive it again and again.

 

Toni Jordan has written a riveting book that pulls the reader in. It is emotional, hilarious, engaging, moving and definitely belongs on your bookshelf. The characters are well-written, the satire will leave the reader in peals of laughter and wry amusement, and romance permeates each page of the book.

 

OTUH

Cover design: Imogen Stubbs (Text Publishing, 2016).

 

Eisha Gupta is a journalist who is curious about almost everything in life, with the exception of golf. She spends most of her time reading books, watching dog videos and scrolling through her Twitter feed.

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