Title: So Many Ways to Begin
Author: Jon McGregor
'So Many Ways to Begin', the second novel by Jon McGregor, beautifully captures the emotional upheaval of a man who struggles to comprehend the mystery behind his birth. Set in post WWII times in Coventry, England, the novel opens with Mary Friel, a young Irish girl, who leaves her hometown Donegal and travels to England to work as a housemaid. Even though Mary intends to go about her business unnoticed, she couldn't but help attract her employer and ends up getting pregnant. She delivers a baby in a local hospital in London and disappears mysteriously. This prologue sets a compelling stage for the story that's about to unravel. The story leans heavily on David Carter, the chief protagonist of the novel. Driven by a passion for collecting historical artifacts, David Carter couldn't be any happier when he lands up a job as a curator in a local history museum in London. David leads a joyous life with his loving wife Eleanor and daughter until one day his Auntie Julia, a friend of his mother Dorothy Carter, reveals a family secret. Auntie Julia, suffering from a mental illness, blurts out that David was adopted as a child and his biological mother left behind no trace of identity. Shocked by Julia's revelations, David begins to trace his biological mother. Haunted by the past, David jeopardizes his curator job that he so passionately dreamed about. On his voyage to self-discovery, David also has to deal with Eleanor's bouts of depression and a disappointing affair he ends up with. I felt the story dragged a wee bit towards the end as the reunion of David with his bio-mother doesn't happen until the last few chapters. The family reunion didn't bring me on the verge of tears, as I expected it would, but David's troubled past is upsetting enough and makes the story compelling. A simple storyline with an intricate style of writing!!
My Rating: 4/5
Other Notable Works By the Author: 'If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things' - Nominated for the Booker Prize, shortlisted for the 2003 Times Young Writer Award, and won the Betty Trask Award and the Somerset Maugham Award.