Mimi Malloy, At Last, by Julia MacDonnell, is the story of an almost-seventy-year old woman who is forced to confront her painful past when one of her grandchildren asks her to help him complete a genealogy project for school.
I absolutely love the premise of this book–and really any book that involves a character reflecting back on her life, taking stock. So it surprises me even now to say that I hated Mimi Malloy, At Last so, so much. The story was slow and irredeemably depressing. Honestly, by the time I had read about (SPOILER ALERT) all of the horrible abuse Mimi experienced as a child and THEN learned about Duffy’s strange backstory, I was ready to throw my hands up and, with maximum irritation, proclaim, “I’m out MacDonnell. I’m out.” The story wasn’t even believable to me by the end.
And, truthfully, even a collection of all of Mimi’s horrific memories would have been okay to slog through had there been absolutely ANY positive thing in this book to balance it out. But there was nothing redeeming here. Except for Siobhan, who the reader barely meets and only at the end, I did not connect with any of the characters; I found all of them to be harsh, judgmental, overbearing, and mean–not to mention void of any insight whatsoever into their own life problems. Because there really wasn’t much kindness, love, or understanding between them, and because I didn’t feel like anyone experienced much growth, reading about these women and their interactions with each other quickly became exhausting.
With that said, I will add that, despite disliking the book so much, I have to commend MacDonnell for building up a good enough mystery that even I really wanted to know how the story ended. The question of what happened to Fagan was enough to motivate me to finish the book–though I was not very satisfied with the ending, either.
Overall, this was a disappointing book. It wasn’t anything like I thought it was going to be, and I was so happy when I could finally be done with it.