Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald review – an acidly funny portrait of parenthood

A writer’s stint in the psychic sweat lodge of toddler-rearing prompts a search for the secrets of her troubled childhood

It’s April on an ordinary Monday in a trendy Toronto neighbourhood and the trees are “tight with buds”. A woman, married to another woman (partner sounds “sexless” and lesbian sounds “lizardy”), walks her child and ageing dog. Mary Rose MacKinnon’s life is a densely woven fabric of domestic detail: “expiring” birthday balloons, grilled cheese, ingested toothpaste, hamsters, glass unicorns. But insistent as the faint pings of sonar, distant memories begin to intrude. Mary Rose increasingly sees double: while parenting her lively two-year-old, Maggie, she remembers herself at the same age, erratically parented by her own depressed mother. The result – in the capable hands of Ann-Marie MacDonald, Orange Prize nominee for her 1996 novel Fall on Your Knees – is a powerful psychological gyre. – Read more