fiction / review

How to Survive Everything: A Novel by Ewan Morrison

As you may have noticed I rarely read books by men. It is books like How to Survive Everything by Ewan Morrison that remind me why.

“Meg fastened a bin bag and started randomly singing. I guess women with big boobs also have big lungs. It was some old reggae song about prophets and books and redemption songs.”

How to Survive Everything: by Ewan Morrison

I’d love to say this was an out-of-context quote or a joke but no, it was just how the 15-year-old girl main character talked about a woman who was living in the bunker community her father had created.

The women were constantly described by their breast size and very little else.

The main character is a child and there are constant references to her breasts and nipples as well. Her character was written in a way that made her seem much, much younger than 15 in most instances–she has trouble knowing what was a dream or a memory, she can’t understand dynamics between adults at all, she doesn’t think critically about the situation she was in or her parents split five years earlier. Largely she reads like an 8 or 9-year-old girl makes it even more jarring to see these references page after page.

I don’t know why the author thinks he can write about women or from a girl’s point of view at all. I’m not sure if he has ever met a woman, talked to one or realizes they are real people.

The way he wrote the mother character was also disturbing. She was a single mother with a seriously mentally ill, paranoid ex-husband who kidnapped them all and is characterized as a complete harpy. Yes, she should have been more upfront with her children about the father’s mental health issues but how was she to know that her ex would kidnap all of them? He already was restricted from much contact and you would think that at 15, a girl might realize that the survival methods her father had been covertly teaching them on his visits were a little weird and maybe mention it to someone. She had been living a perfectly “normal” modern life before the kidnapping, she would have known something was strange and at 15, not still be stuck in the “daddy knows best” mode of a very young child the way she was the entire book. Unless she was meant to have some sort of problem with living in reality that the author didn’t make clear or mention at all, it made no sense. Somehow we were to believe this girl was able to go to school and cross a street by herself prior to the events of a book.

It was very contrived and most of the book felt like a stunted, sad teenage boy’s end-of-the-world fantasy—living off the land, walking in on a girl in the shower, bonding with a “manly” man but vilifying the mother and making the woman characters spend their time doing domestic tasks and catering to the men but strangely through the girl’s point of view. Maybe the author thought it would make it less creepy? If so, that was a colossal failure.

I truly don’t understand why this book is apparently popular. Beyond the parts about women and girls, it just was poorly written and paced. Events that should have been monumental lacked urgency and depth.

How is he some celebrated author in Scotland? Is the bar that low? Did no one actually read this book?

2 thoughts on “How to Survive Everything: A Novel by Ewan Morrison

  1. Pingback: What I Read in January 2023 | Rachel Reads Books

  2. Pingback: Day 1059: Pancakes & Mochiko Chicken – Rachel Eats Dinner

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