Antiheroes Rise Up
Before we get into The Other Son by Nick Alexander, I want to warn readers [TRIGGER ALERT] that this book describes scenes of domestic violence that might be hard to read for some people.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to what we came for. Our main character is Alice, a woman in her late 60s and with more than a fair share of regrets in life. Stuck in a marriage with a man she doesn’t love and disconnected from her now-grown children, Alice is finding it hard to continue to avoid her desolation.
I will start this review by admitting that I had to force myself to read through the first half of the book. During this part of the story, we get to know our main characters from the omnipresent perspective of our all-knowing narrator. And let me tell you, the sight ain’t pretty.
We meet Alice, who has lived almost her entire life avoiding conflict at a very high cost, her clueless husband, her emotionally isolated older son, and his insecure wife, who is traumatized by her own backstory. We also hear about a second son, who’s recurrently described as average and underachieving, but nowhere in sight.
The book dedicates a lot of time describing each character’s emotional state and the experiences that influenced it. The main characters are so “in their head” and unaware of the needs of those that surround them (or even how to relate to them) that you quickly lose sympathy for all of them, even Alice. I would be remiss to not mention that these characters’ tragic flaws are not without reason. Still, their deep-seated resentment for life and for each other is painful to read. They all seem so unhappy yet passive to their circumstances. Everything about this family is just sad.
For a while there, I had no idea where this book was going. I kept thinking, is this one of these books where the author describes a period in time and, while beautifully and insightfully written, the story is just a flat line?
Then we meet him, the other son, and it all starts coming together. And, it’s worth it! This story’s unraveling is quick, but also delicate, meaningful and mesmerizing. Nick Alexander definitely delivers.
The Other Son is a story of learning to leave the table where happiness is no longer being served (a bit of an adaptation of Nina Simone’s wise advice) and letting love flourish. This book is not for everyone, but if you would like to read about an antihero who finds her courage and recovers her humanity, this might be the book for you.