My family and other natural disasters ISBN: 9780140365115
- Viking, 1994
- Puffin, 1995 (ISBN: 9780140365115)
In spite of the jokey title, this is not a funny book. Nor is there a happy ending. Patrick is experiencing the break-up of his parents' marriage, and while they are always talking about talking, neither of them communicates anything to him. His quirky Irish grandparents provide his only support, particularly his grandmother, but they don't understand what is happening either. Patrick gets in trouble at school for not completing an English assignment, and things go from bad to worse. Insensitive teachers handle the situation badly, and Patrick is suspended. On a trip to Ireland with his mum, he begins to learn about his family background, something he has needed for the English project, and he returns full of enthusiasm to begin his 'Life Story'. But it is only after a horrific scene at a parents' evening, when his mum losers control and shouts at his dad for bringing his 'fancy woman' to the school and Patrick is sick all over the form tutor, that his parents begin to communicate with him. This is realism writ large, and Patrick is the victim. While Patrick is thirteen, the interest level would make it appropriate for younger children, and his feelings of loneliness and being left out make it a good choice for reading therapy - particularly with a facilitator in charge.