Rating: 4 / 5
Evan James’ Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe is the satirically hilarious story of the eclectic Widdicombe family and the houseguests that they welcome into their Pacific Northwest home for the summer.
Huge thanks to Atria for this free review copy!
Frank Widdicombe is miserable. His annual boys trip to central France was unexpectedly cancelled, and thus he is feeling very frustrated and unfulfilled. His wife, Carol, spends her days redecorating the house while their adult son Christopher spends his sulking, as is his nature as a brooding artist.
Carol’s most recent initiative is to make their estate a relaxing pit-stop for the creative and fascinating. She’s recruited a preppy screenwriter and a spiritual self-help author to stay, each of whom shifts the mood of the home and its inhabitants in unexpected and over-the-top ways.
Throughout the summer, the Widdicombe family grows and changes, thanks to their houseguests and the serene nature of their small island town. From a recovering alcoholic gardener/community nurturer to a Danish maritime lawyer, the friends and guests of this crazy family shape their summer and their moods.
I loved my time with the wonderfully weird Widdicombes. Admittedly, it’s quite odd and philosophical, but there is a constant undercurrent of sarcasm that keeps the over-the-top story and writing grounded.
James’ writing is utterly enchanting. Reading Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe is a literary joy, filled with beautiful words and remarkable turns of phrase. I laughed out loud several times at the many outlandish one-liners sprinkled throughout the narrative.
The funky writing isn’t the only draw of this novel; the characters are neurotic, eccentric, and perfectly unique. Their relationships with each other, including constant witty banter, are rich and straightforward. They are painfully honest, with themselves and with their friends. Bored, unfulfilled, and concerned for their futures, the Widdicombes try, with all their might, to fill their time and their lives with purpose.
This isn’t the easiest read in the world: there are no chapters – only three parts; the sentences are long and winding; and the point of view changes suddenly and often. However, the writing and storyline are so rich and unique that they are completely worth the slower-paced reading that is required to fully understand and soak in the story.
Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe is one-of-a-kind. It’s weird, laugh-out-loud funny, and strikingly satirical and thought-provoking. I hope you’ll give it a try, and that if you do, you enjoy your time with the Widdicombes and their eccentric friends as much as I did!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!