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Family Sold Separately    by Kate Long order for
Family Sold Separately
by Kate Long
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2008 (2008)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Family Sold Separately - a consistent mix of painful angst and rollicking humor - Kate Long presents a convoluted, and often very strange, set of family relationships from the point of view of almost-eighteen-year-old, chubby Katherine Millar - who discovers most of them as she comes of age in the course of the novel. Interspersed with the modern story are flashbacks to the hard life of the mother who left when Katherine was very small.

Katherine (who wants to be called Kat) lives in the village of Bank Top with her smothering, controlling, penny-pinching, almost blind grandmother Poll and their dog Winston. Kat finds it hard to tolerate the presence in their lives of her grandmother's friend, Dickie the Dogman, especially after he turns into a dirty old man when she hits puberty. She idolizes her dead father (whose ashes share her room 'in his jar on the windowsill') and hates the mother who accidentally killed him and left her. She's anxious to lose weight, worries about her future, and would love to be normal. She solves the weight problem by discovering the effectiveness of bulimia. Her place of refuge is the Bank Top Library where Miss Dragon (really Miss Stockley) mentors and helps her.

Change begins on Kat's eighteenth birthday with a secret surprise gift on her doorstep - clothes that make her look like a different person. Then her cousin Callum shows up - his friendship means a lot to Kat until she learns that it's based on a lie. Gradually Kat discovers that most of what she thought she knew about her family is not true, and finds her own way in life, despite the past history that tries to anchor her in Bank Top. Family Sold Separately is an unusual story, recommended for anglophiles (who will get phrases like 'put the wind up' and 'How crap is she') and enjoy the British context and humor.

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