The Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry is one of those authors that does whatever she wants, isn’t she? The Giver and its first companion book, Gathering Blue, are the only other books of hers that I’ve read, but I did quite like them (the former moreso than the latter), and so when I was looking for audiobooks and found this one, I thought I’d give it a shot.

Goooooooood call. It’s definitely not The Giver, but it is equally spectacular. Firstly, the audiobook narrator is just splendid, and he amused me throughout the book with just the particular way he would say things. Secondly, the writing is just full of that deadpan humor that I like so much, where the characters are saying wildly amusing things without realizing it. Thirdly, there is basically no plot to this book so the noise of my new workplace didn’t cause me too much stress in listening.

The book, as you might guess, is about the Willoughby family, who take “dysfunctional” to a whole new level. Not only do the parents and children absolutely not care about each other, they in fact both decide to get rid of the other — the children by sending their parents on an incredibly dangerous vacation sure to orphan them, the parents by going on said vacation, hiring a nanny for the kids, and then putting their house up for sale. There is also a B plot about a baby left on the Willoughbys’ doorstep and subsequently left by the Willoughbys on someone else’s doorstep that ends in an extended bit about a candy bar. It makes sense… sort of…

What really makes this book wonderful is that it is a self-described and completely shameless play on every children’s book ever. Lowry name-drops several books, including The Bobbsey Twins series (for one book where they find a baby on their doorstep) and James and the Giant Peach (for general orphan fun times), and helpfully includes them in a bibliography at the end of the book. There is also a glossary which is nearly as amusing as the book. I may need to obtain this book in print just for those.

Recommendation: For anyone who has ever read a children’s book and found it a little trite.

Rating: 9/10
(A to Z Challenge)

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