From the publisher:
In this charming and poignant debut, one woman’s unconventional journey to finding love means learning to embrace the unexpected.
For Susan Green, messy emotions don’t fit into the equation of her perfectly ordered life. She has a flat that is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic, and an “interpersonal arrangement” that provides cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. But suddenly confronted with the loss of her mother and the news that she is about to become a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is realized. She is losing control.
Enter Rob, the dubious but well-meaning friend of her indolent brother. As Susan’s due date draws near and her dismantled world falls further into a tailspin, Susan finds an unlikely ally in Rob. She might have a chance at finding real love and learning to love herself, if only she can figure out how to let go.
A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK
New York Times Bestseller
“Fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine will love The Cactus.” —Red magazine
This book has been lurking on my Kindle for well over a year, but I’m sorry to say it got lost in the shuffle until the paperback came out. Then I read that it was a Reese Witherspoon pick, and there is a series deal with Netflix. That put it right back on my radar.
I do love finding a debut this good; it gives me a new author to add to my “must-read” list. This is the era of the charming novel, like the above mentioned Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, and Ellie and the Harp Maker. Books that are heartwarming, with quirky protagonists who may or may not be “on the spectrum,” but who do live by their own rules. Susan Green is one of these characters.
When Susan’s mother passes away, she is shocked to find out that her mother had recently made a will, giving her younger brother a life interest in the family home. That means he can live there for as long as he wants, forever if he wants, before they can sell and Susan would get half the proceeds of that sale. She starts digging and decides that her brother, always her nemesis, has now reached a new low. She is shocked to find his friend Rob has also moved into her mother’s home, and things go downhill from there.
Although she is a law school graduate, Susan has never taken the bar and works in a different field, in the same job she’s held for many years. She is a creature of habit, loves following the rules of society as she perceives them, and is quick to point out deficiencies in everyone else. She is prickly for sure, but we can’t help but feel empathy for her as well. Perhaps she is right about her brother and the will was coerced, but we are never quite sure. This is a dysfunctional family story but there is the sweetest hint of romance as well.
Set in England, this story is filled with dry wit and humor, making me laugh out loud many times. It is also emotional and at times, heart-wrenching, and we can’t help but be drawn to these characters even though I was not always sure who to root for. But it doesn’t matter, I was immersed in this world and sorry to have to leave it. An excellent debut, especially for fans of British chick-lit (if that’s still a thing?) I loved it.
5/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
THE CACTUS by Sarah Haywood. Park Row; First Time Trade edition (May 7, 2019). ISBN 978-0778369073. 384 p.