There are books you read, and then there are books you inhabit. For me, The Dead Fathers Club was in the latter category.
In the course of reading this novel, I lived in the mind of a sensitive, funny, complicated eleven year old boy who's struggling mightily with the sudden loss of his father.
I lived over the pub his father used to own, but which was now being taken over by the dreaded Uncle Alan; and I nursed my secret suspicion that Uncle Alan was after more than the family business. When he started putting his hand on my mother's bum and buying me a Playstation, my worst fears were confirmed.
If grieving over a father who appears regularly as a highly demanding ghost, and trying to protect my mother from Uncle Alan weren't enough, I also had to worry about everything else eleven year-olds agonize over: getting picked last on the soccer team, being bullied at school, and deciding whether or not I should kiss the girl who had the most beautiful red-brown hair I'd ever seen.
At first, to be honest, I wasn't sure I wanted to live in the mind of an eleven-year-old boy, nevermind one with so many troubles. The first two or three chapters, I wondered what I'd gotten myself--and the huge membership of the Third Day Book Club--into this time. Was this a children's book I was reading? I checked the cover art skeptically.
As it turned out, it was a people's book. You could read it if you were eleven, but you could enjoy it if you were eighty, too. (And yes, it is like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in that sense.) The deeper I went into it, the harder I found it to emerge. And when I did? I found myself thinking in the voice of the young protagonist.
I won't say more, because I don't want to spoil the marvelous, complex and surprising conclusion for anyone who might read it. But I will say I loved this book. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I kept talking about it at my readings this week.
A couple of times, my helpful husband had to poke me and say, "Excuse me, but aren't you supposed to be promoting The Liar's Diary?"
So, oh yes: Read The Dead Father's Club, and that other book with the punchy title? Read that, too. Rumor has it they're both fantastic.
Other reviews of Matt Haig's novel: