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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 September 2012
This is the story of late-developing love between a 38-year old Dublin woman, Addie and a 50-year old American, Bruno, who comes to Ireland to trace his roots. The year is 2008. Bruno has recently been sacked from Lehman's in the financial meltdown and is fervently hoping for Barack Obama to be elected in the US election. Addie is an out-of-work architect and daughter of a cantankerous doctor father. She is also the owner of a dog called Lola, a key character in the story and a delightful one. Addie and Bruno are not expecting to find love - indeed, they had both given up looking for it - and the scene in which they meet, courtesy of Lola the dog, is very well written and a delightful set piece. Other characters in the book are also well drawn: I particularly liked Addie's older sister Della though was less convinced by Addie's father, Hugh. Everyone walks on eggshells around him but his prickliness was not exactly terrifying and the side-plot of his big, dark secret petered out a bit. Other than that, the story-telling is good and the growing love between the two main characters genuinely heart-warming. It's clear fairly early on that something is going to go wrong. Without giving anything away, I would just say that I found this aspect of the book deeply disappointing. It is as though writers today have a real problem writing about happiness, as though it is not a "real story" unless there is conflict/tragedy/disaster, whatever.

Why is this? What actually is wrong with a happy story?
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 17 May 2012
American banker Bruno, 49, has lost his job with Lehman Brothers and decides now is the time to visit Ireland so that he can connect with distant cousins of his family and research his family tree. Bruno's Irish relatives are Addie and her father, Hugh - Addie, 38, an attractive but lonely architect is living in the family home situated practically on the seashore and is looking after her father, Hugh, a wonderfully cantankerous surgeon, in the process of being sued for malpractice, and temporarily incapacitated with two broken wrists. When Hugh and Addie learn that Bruno is looking for them, they neither of them feel up to coping with their distant American cousin, and agree that they will try to avoid him. But Bruno has not come all the way from America to give up, and his perseverance pays off for one day he meets Addie on the beach where she regularly swims with her little dog, Lola. And once Addie meets Bruno, she regrets being so standoffish as she finds him a very attractive and interesting person and he, fortunately, feels the same way about Addie.

Bruno and Addie however, have emotional issues from their pasts; Addie and her sister, Della, sadly lost their mother when they were children and early on in the novel we learn that Addie is suffering from the loss of her unborn baby and from the break up of her relationship with the baby's father; Bruno has two marriage break-ups and several unsuccessful relationships behind him. However, before they know it Addie and Bruno start to fall in love with each other and this is a love that feels perfectly right for both of them: "If you'd seen them together that first week, the two of them and Lola, you would have thought they were a family, the way they moved, they were in step with each other. They looked like they had been together forever." However, this novel is about more than a life-changing love story, but to say more would spoil this rich and deeply affecting tale, so I shall leave that for prospective readers to discover.

Starting in the autumn of 2008, when the world is on the brink of catastrophic economical collapse and ending several months later in the spring of 2009, 'This is How it Ends' is Kathleen MacMahon's debut novel and is a rather impressive one at that. She writes movingly about love, family relationships, of what really matters in life, and she also writes lovingly about the Irish landscape. This is an emotive and engrossing story and for a debut novel, rather a remarkable one; I shall certainly interested be in seeing what subject the author chooses for her next book.

4 Stars.
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on 26 July 2012
I won this book recently from Waterstones and wasn't entirely sure what to expect from it. As the books hasn't released yet there were no reviews. When the book arrived it came with a lovely letter from the publishers and inside the proof copy itself was lots of praise for this book. Each and every quote explained how excellent this book was in many different ways. Now that I've read it I can confirm that this is a truly breathtaking debut novel.

This Is How It Ends follows Addie, an out of work architect and Bruno an American whose just lost his job. Bruno finally keeps the promise he gave his father and flies out to Ireland to find out more about his families past. It's there where their two worlds collide. Love blooms between the two but life throws unexpected obstacles their way. Life is never easy and this book shows the journey of two people trying to keep their heads above water.

What I loved about this book was the way it was written. It was like you were growing with these characters, watching the story unfold as if you were in the same room as them. It's breathtaking how unique MacMahon's writing is and how the whole way the readers are tucked in nicely watching her characters go about their lives. This book is as real as it gets. It's full of pain, love, sorrow, happiness, pretty much every human emotion there is. It's a true reflection of life and it's challenges. The events of this book could happen to anyone, that's what makes this books so heart wrenching. You bond with these characters as if they were family. You feel their pain and you worry about them. Each character even secondary ones were so well rounded and real.

The last quarter of this book was the strongest of the whole novel. It's where things happen which I'm not going to spoil for you. It was incredible the way MacMahon dealt with these obstacles and how the characters reacted. It just proves that no matter what life throws at you, you can still be happy until the end. I can easily say now that I've finished this book that it is still stuck in the front of my mind. My mind is still flicking through the story and wincing from the pain and smiling from the happiness. It's a really unique feeling. This book is going to stick with me for a long time. I can also say that the five words, This Is How It Ends, have a whole new meaning and will haunt my mind for a long while yet.

This book stirred so many emotions inside me. This Is How It Ends, shows how life can be unpredictable and you can never be prepared for it. It's an important lesson and it's changed the way I look at things. For a debut novel this is pure gold. Like I said it is a truly breathtaking novel, that will be an instant classic. It's not something I would normally read but even then it's still amazing. I'm sure everyone will love it!
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VINE VOICEon 26 May 2012
Bruno has travelled to Ireland from America to try and find distant cousins there, a journey he had promised to make over thirty years ago. He is also trying to escape from the global financial crisis, having been a direct victim of it, losing his job in finance with Lehman Brothers. Addie is temporarily staying with her father Hugh, a surgeon nearing retirement, whilst he recovers from two broken wrists. It becomes evident that Hugh is also in the midst of being sued due to certain actions at work. Her sister Della and husband Simon live nearby with their four daughters. Addie is single, work for her as an architect seems to have dried up, and her most beloved companion in life is her loyal dog, Lola. Della and Addie lost their mother when they were young children.

The novel is set in the run-up to, and after, the American Presidential elections of 2008, alongside which is the backdrop of the economic recession affecting the world. Bruno arrives in Dublin with a month to go until the election, and three weeks after losing his job. Bruno, like many, is desperate for Obama to win and feels this would bring hope for the future, he is passionate about it. If McCain wins, Bruno vows not to return to the USA. Bruno contacts Hugh and Addie by telephone, but his messages are not returned, as neither of them feels inclined to deal with him. But after meeting on the beach one day, things will never be the same for Bruno and Addie.

Bruno and Addie meet and find a totally unexpected, life-changing happiness and love together, the like of which they both feel they have never known before. Bruno is nearly 50 and Addie is 38. There is so much joy between them. Bruno brings a lightness that brightens and opens up Addie's life. 'All her life Addie has had the feeling that there's a black cloud following her around.' There is a wonderful, eye-opening moment for Bruno when he looks at the tracks listed on Addie's iPod, the music that accompanies her day, and realises 'the way she had her life story set up, it was a weepie'. He determines from then on he is going to turn it 'into a feel-good movie.' As for himself, 'he felt like he'd woken up from a bad dream and suddenly everything was OK in the world.'

I loved Addie, with her troubles and imperfections, riddled with self-doubt and beset by loneliness, and I loved Lola. The strong bond between them really came across. Addie is lonely, taking long walks with Lola on the beach right by their home, where 'she can scream if she wants to and sometimes she does...She can cry hot tears of self-pity...Addie has a tricky head, she has a tendency to melancholy....It can be a full-time job, dealing with all the things that come bubbling up in her head.' Her escapes from what she has had to deal with in life are walking and swimming. Bruno makes a huge difference to her days, bringing about a transformation, with his enthusiasm and zest for life, and for exploring Ireland, and his insistence on sharing his love of Bruce Springsteen songs.

This debut novel is a veritable emotional rollercoaster with joyous highs, devastating lows, and many poignant moments in between. There is so much happiness, yet there is tragedy, sadness, family secrets and regret. If you're looking for a bittersweet, charming love story that will make you smile, but that may also leave you in tears, with well-drawn characters you may grow attached to, then read this book.

I found that I engaged with and liked the characters, Addie most of all, and I found the love that grew between her and Bruno was charmingly depicted, such an honesty and innocence that they share. I also grew to care about Hugh despite his cantankerous nature; he's an old-fashioned man in a modern world. The characters felt very real, and their stories genuine. There is a gentle humour in places, - I loved the little part about the etiquette amongst dog owners, so true! - and there is a truthfulness about relationships. There is an acute awareness of the passing of time and how moments can seem both days away and yet also a lifetime away.

This is a very moving novel from Kathleen MacMahon. I was left a bit heartbroken on finishing it, to be honest, because of how I'd grown to care for certain of the characters. I can't say more as it'll spoil it. But you'll know why when you read it. This book also has a beautiful, and for me quite magical, cover design.

4.5 stars.
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on 1 May 2012
I have to admit, I was a bit sceptical about this book when I first started reading it. A middle-class, mid-life crisis drama set in suburban Dublin, an unwelcome American relative who visits looking for his Irish roots and is evangelical about spreading the word of Bruce Springsteen, I was certain that there was going to be nothing I was going to like about any of these characters. Appearances can be deceptive however - which is part of what This Is How It Ends sets out to show us - and such is the strength of the writing that by the end I was close to devastated by the turns that the lives of each and every one of these people (they are more than just characters) take over the course of this astonishing first novel.

What is even more dazzling is that the novel makes this turnaround seem so effortless when in reality it is so brilliantly constructed around certain themes that, almost without you even being consciously aware of it, everything falls naturally into place. If you think about it however, there are certain commonalities in all the characters who are each currently in a kind of in-between time. They are of an in-between class that is being squeezed by the harsh realities of the current economic crisis in Ireland, in an in-between period of their lives. Addie is pushing forty, is not long out of a broken relationship and, having lost a child, she's alone and longing to feel part of something. A family would be nice, if perhaps one not quite as frantic as her sister Della's (whose children are all of an in-between difficult age) but there's little sense of that in her relationship with her frosty and difficult father Hugh. Hugh himself is approaching retirement, a doctor of the old-school, and his notoriously explosive temperament isn't helped by an injury that has left him incapacitated while he faces legal difficulties relating to his handling of a medical case.

Stability is something each of Addie's family would love in their lives, but it doesn't seem that it's ever been this way since the death of their mother when she and Della were children, but those events in the past seem to have a discreet veil cast over them and are never spoken about. There's not much stability elsewhere in Ireland or the rest of the world for that matter. Having left America during a particularly difficult in-between Presidents time (the time of the novel is set during the Obama/McCain election), himself having suffered from the economic crisis as a banker for Lehman Brothers, Bruno is also looking for something during this period of transition in his life that seems to have reached such a critical stage that he has finally decided to make the long-promised trip back to the homeland.

Thematically then, everything in This Is How It Ends fits together marvellously without it ever feeling the slightest bit forced. The novel is delightfully written, with a deceptive lightness of tone that nonetheless has a rich vein of humour and is remarkably perceptive of certain traits and behaviours. The setting - by the shore in Dublin - also proves to be well chosen, is described beautifully and itself weaves meaningfully into the overall fabric of the work. The dialogue is particularly brilliant, well-observed and nuanced, revealing fully-fledged and fascinating characters/people. From what they say and how they say it, you come to sympathise with them, perhaps even understand them better than they know themselves, and probably end up liking them more than they like themselves, but there's no playing for sympathy here.

So yes, this is a book for a more mature, literary audience, but no, that doesn't mean that it's been written to open up or meet the requirements of a new mature readership identified in the market. This Is How It Ends is written by an author who knows and loves the people she is writing about, who understands them and who is one of them. You will feel that profoundly by the time you get to the end of the book. And whether you're in mid-life crisis yourself, approaching retirement, facing the challenges of motherhood or not, you'll probably find that you are one of those people too, since after all, life is always in transition, and we all have concerns about the life we have led and where it's going. This wonderful little book could just help you see your life in an entirely new light.
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on 15 June 2012
This book started OKish but I skipped vast chunks in the middle because it was so dull. The only 'character' I cared about was Lola the dog. I find it hard to see why it attracted a huge advance from the publishers. Marian Keyes does this sort of book a million times better.
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on 23 March 2014
I've never been prompted to write a book review before, but this book made me want to, because I found it so frustrating and manipulative.There's so much press on how good this book is & I can't understand it, it made me so annoyed. The book is full of unfinished ideas, half started plot lines, total changes in writing style (the first chapter descibes events in minute detail, later plot lines are dealt with in such broad strokes, you're left guessing the intent) and unending missed opportunities, where it could have become a good book, it just becomes too frustrating to read. You keep waiting for Addie's backstory to realise itself, her mother died, she doesn't know her family history, along comes Bruno to dig into the past, we start along this course but it peters out without resolution. Is it a love story? We're told they are in love, but there's no depth to their story, which mainly features unending unspoken concern about whether he'll return to America. There's Obama, recession, banking crisis, but then that all fizzles out, never to be referred to again, there's her Dad's court case, accident, hospital inquiry, you think this might become something... Addie's an architect, but not working, at one point she draws swimming pools that Bruno thinks are beautiful, is this the point, she realises more in her life because Bruno comes along? No. Most of these subplots mean you spend the whole book wondering when it's going to become clear what the key themes are, until you get to the last third & realise you've persevered through, for none of these plot lines to come to anything, because she's going to die and as you read on you start to feel completely manipulated, not least because the author kills off both the main character and her dog off within pages of each other. There's really good parts to this, but it's not a cohesive whole, it's unresolved and i resent being manipulated. Would not recommend!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 June 2013
Della and Addie's mother died when they were young and they were raised by their father, Hugh, a prominent doctor. Now they are in their late 30s. Della is happily married with four children. Addie has never married - although she's had heartache along the way - but has forged a career as an architect. Into their lives comes Bruno, a distant American cousin who decides to visit Ireland on a spur of the moment whim after losing his job with Lehman Brothers. Bruno and Addie meet and almost immediately fall in love. However this is a book about endings. Hugh worries about the outcome of a malpractice suit that is bringing brought against him. Bruno worries about the outcome of the upcoming American election. And Addie worries about what the future will hold for her and Bruno.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I felt quite ambivalent about it throughout, but when I finished it I realised that the characters had got under my skin more than I thought they had. One problem for me is that the author's writing style is very detached. You are told about this great love at its centre but you never really feel it. Bruno in particular never really stepped off the page for me as a fully fleshed person. At times the author addresses the reader directly, but that just compounds the feeling of detachment for what is going on.

The book builds towards an ending which should come as a surprise (be careful to avoid reviews with spoilers!), but in fact there are clues throughout which most readers will pick up on. Otherwise it's a slow moving, character driven story - which would be more successful were the characters more engaging. A good book, but not a great one.
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VINE VOICEon 1 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It says in the back of Kathleen MacMahon's debut novel that she comes from a family of short story writers, and in reading 'This is how it ends', I can well believe it. In fact, it seems the mistake that MacMahon made with this story was in trying to flesh out a short story into a complete novel.

Basic premise is that we meet Addie, a lonely, getting-toward-40 woman living in Dublin. Despite recent economic times in Ireland she appears to be well off enough to not have to work too hard at being an architect and instead spends a lot of time walking her dog, swimming with said dog, and being live in help to a recently, temporarily invalided father. Her life (and the story) gets the sudden jolt it needs with the arrival of Bruno, a distantly related cousin who has turned up from the US in search of his 'roots'.

Along the way we meet a supporting cast of family and friends, but here's the thing. No one gets fleshed out enough, even with Addie and Bruno, I never feel like I know them or their full intentions. It makes it hard to foster sympathy with the reader when events take a turn for the worse. You kind of feel like you're watching it all from very far away, possibly through a misted up telescopic lens. With no sound.

There are some nice bits of writing, like when we first meet Addie swimming in the sea, with her dog. It's this kind of thing which would work well as a short story, but trying to weave it into a bigger plot just didn't work for me with this kind of writing style. I didn't feel involved and as a result it took me a while to work my way through the book.

I was a little disappointed, but I would read a collection of short stories from MacMahon should she ever release any.
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on 10 January 2014
The story explores difficulties in a family relationship between two very different sisters (Della and Adie) and their father. It also looks at how Adie falls in love during a mid-life crisis. This is Kathleen MacMahon's first published novel and it has been translated into twenty-five languages after a successful introduction at The London Book Fair 2011.

Della has four children so Adie, who is an out of work architect, ends up nursing their consultant father, Hugh, who has broken wrists and is awaiting the repercussions of a works tribunal. Hugh is unable to show his love for his Adie. Perhaps she reminds him of his deceased wife?
Bruno is from America and his life in finance has ground to an untimely halt when he arrives in the neighbourhood, following in his sister's footsteps looking to form some family bonds in Ireland. After he ends up in Adie's bed, regular updates on U.S. politics give the impression that Bruno is about to fly home any day if the right candidate wins the election.

Some members of our group really enjoyed the book. It offered them a pleasant distraction from real life. However even they agreed that it was an uninspired title to an uninspired book. It seems to offer little substance and no depth to most of the characters. Our main concern was whether Adie's dog had actually died. If you are looking for a cheerful read then this is not one for you and most of us hoped there will not be a sequel.

Our average mark was 4 out of 10
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