The original premise of this book intrigued me, and I found the hardback cover (Mr. Toppit on the dust jacket, with the Hayseed Chronicles underneath) a gorgeous idea. Unfortunately it did seem to be the best bit of the book.
After a promising start, I must admit this book became a bit of a gruelling read for me. I didn't connect with any of the characters, starting with the main narrator: Luke Hayman. Luke's narration is detached, lack-lustre and disinterested. He doesn't speak much, he just watches, but he seems to miss all the vital points. Or he doesn't see them as important. Since he is the main voice in the book, I felt this was quite a big factor in why the overall story didn't work for me.
The character of Laurie just irritated me. I wanted someone to tell her to go away, or ask why she felt she had a right to be there, or do this, but everyone just accepted her. Rachel and Martha were vague figures who never truly came into focus, except in cliches - drug-taking, troubled daughter; unfaithful, disappointed wife. I constantly felt as if there was a deeper story here (something about Jordan, perhaps) but it never quite arrived.
As for the Hayseed Chronicles themselves, the characters of Luke Hayseed and Mr Toppit, to be honest I felt the connection was hazy and feeble. It certainly didn't cause Rachel's problems (though early on when Luke remarks that Rachel was never in the books, as if she didn't exist I hoped that would go somewhere. It never truly did, except as a very tenuous reason for why Rachel was so desperate for attention. But that could just as easily have been inherited from Martha), which were in existence before Arthur's death, and therefore predated Laurie's interference and the success of the books. In fact, for something supposed to be at the heart of the family breakdown, the books drift in and out and never make a point.
This book started off well, drifted, then steadily petered out, coming to an end of nothingness. Nothing was resolved, nothing was revealed, it just ended at a point that could have occurred almost anywhere else in the story.
I expected more, wanted there to be more, but it sadly didn't quite deliver. Which is a shame, because no matter how much I disliked the characters, I did stick with it to the end. There's potential here, I just don't feel it was reached this time around.