Joanna Trollope, adored for her pithy tales that deal with the nuances of human nature and emotion, continues her tradition with Next of Kin, the story of a family coping with the death of a loved one. When Californian Caro Meredith became an English farmer’s wife, she hoped it would help her find the happiness and stability her childhood lacked. But when she dies 24 years later, some well-kept secrets emerge that devastate her adopted daughter, Judy, her husband, Robin, and a host of in-laws. As those who knew Caro mourn her passing, they find themselves pulled together by the commonality of their grief, even as they are torn apart by the forces of change brought about by startling revelations. It will take an outsider -- Judy’s new roommate, Zoe -- to help the family heal and move on. But first they must face some of the painful truths locked inside their own hearts.
Readers of Trollope (Marrying the Mistress, Other People's Children) have come to expect the unexpected, and this latest novel is no exception. It begins grimly, with the funeral of Caro Meredith, wife of a dairy farmer in the English Midlands. Caro's death is merely the prelude, however, to a series of shattering events for those she left behind from husband Robin and daughter Judy, a magazine "subeditor," to brother-in-law Joe and his wife, Lyndsay, to Robin's parents, Dilys and Harry. The arrival of Judy's unconventional roommate, Zoe, brings a measure of openness to this emotionally closed family and gives Robin some small amount of the love that he lacked throughout his marriage. Nevertheless, despite the transformative nature of tragedy, particularly for Judy, who chucks her London life, and Lyndsay, both of whom become farmers, the novel lacks the leavening that characterizes most of Trollope's work, and some readers may find it heavy going. Buy where Trollope is popular. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/01.] Francine Fialkoff, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The popular Trollope (Marrying the Mistress, 2000, etc.) again deftly profiles ordinary men and women learning to adapt as their lives are disrupted by change and loss. Life on the Meredith family's two farms has been pretty predictable. They're not the most beautiful spreads in England, but they've offered solace to Robin, who runs Tideswell, and younger brother Joe, along with parents Harry and Dilys, who farm Dean's Place. But this seeming serenity is, as usual, only superficial. When Caro, Robin's American wife, dies from a brain tumor, the thin fabric of the Merediths' lives disintegrates. Judy, adopted daughter of Caro and Robin, is angry with her father because she feels he mistreated her mother, seeming cool and indifferent. Robin has his own sorrows, as well as financial worries, and Joe, long depressed, feels that with Caro gone he can no longer escape his demons. The pace of events accelerates when Zoe, a photographer who shares a flat with Judy in London, comes down for a weekend, then moves in and becomes Robin's lover. Soon he's telling her about his loveless marriage, and she's also befriending Dilysa friendship that comforts the crusty matriarch when Joe commits suicide, Harry has an accident, and all learn that they may have to leave the farm. Robin has large debts too (farming is not cheap), and Trollope makes a quiet, heartfelt plea for those who love the land and till it. The Merediths must adapt if they're to survive, Dilys ruefully concludes: change, together with loss and growth, is life. This would all be more compelling if Caro and Zoe didn't both seem more like necessary plot catalysts than memorable characters; Caro's influence on the Merediths neverbecomes clear, and Zoe is a very sketchy figure. Still, despite its flaws: a refreshingly unsentimental story about people trying, not always successfully, to do what's right.