This book i a collection of short stories about ordinary people and the cost of ‘just one more thing’. How do people cope when their secrets are revealed or their boss becomes someone they despise?
Dom Haslam has imagined eleven stories that tell a concise and clear story where often, a person is pushed over the edge by just one more thing. The stories are so realistic and use real-life news stories as a background. This review is going to be slightly different as I’ll plot out each story and then review the book as a whole.
Story one: Tree House
Kit and Alison buy their dream house in the country. The next-door neighbour used to own their new house and now lives in the bungalow built on the property. She’s an elderly lady who doesn’t want to see too much change happen. Kit gets annoyed at her interference and wants his house to be warm and modern and not full of memories of Mrs Gunn. His wife is getting increasingly annoyed at his anger towards Mrs Gunn and her. Kit has issues from being bullied as a child and so believes that now he’s grown and has a fancy job, no-one should be able to tell him what to do with his own house. He overrules his wife on all decorating decisions, mocks her for being a SAHM (rude) and generally becomes an arsehole. He wants the beech tree on the property cutting down, but it’s seemingly protected. What will this cost him?
Honestly, this first story got me really mad, and that anger doesn’t really go away through this book! Kit is the most annoying character I’ve read. Dom does a fantastic job of creating a monster in him and his inability to stop and think of the bigger picture – his house, wife and kids – becomes his downfall and like many characters throughout the book, he needs therapy. Lots of therapy.
Story two: Seeing is Deceiving
Jane, a pregnant mother of a two-year-old is worrying about her relationship with her husband, Gary. He’s become distant and is constantly on his phone. His ex, who for some reason was at their wedding, keeps playing on Jane’s mind but she dismisses it when she sees on Facebook that the ex has a new house and a new man. A few lies from Gary about where he’s been and who with forces Jane to play detective. She follows him one night after work and ends up at someone’s house – suspiciously near theirs – she recognises it but can’t think why. She can’t be sure he’s there so she goes home, upset. Later, the police knock on her door. What has Gary been up to?
I feel sorry for Jane, pregnancy hormones are no joke and a partner who suddenly becomes distant is hard to deal with, as well as a small toddler. She does what she feels she has to do, there’s no communcating with some people and she believes she has to get to the bottom of this. Will she be able to forgive Gary for his mistakes?
“No one is beyond forgiveness,”
Story Three: Universal Suffrage
Okay, in this story, there is someone who is more annoying than Kit. I didn’t think it was possible. Dom has found a way to make me despise practically every male in this book haha!
This story focuses on Brexit, the referendum results are in and Brexit is on the way. George and his wife are attempting to go away on holiday. George’s work are not happy that he’s gone away and his boss knocks back a proposal that he’s been working on (tbh it sounded silly), and he can’t relax, getting more wound up everytime he thinks of Brexit or sees a family who he classes as stereotypical Brexiteers – probably working-class, tattooed, kids squabbling and maccies breakfast – and focuses all his hatred on this unsuspecting family. George’s attitude to everyone around him is appalling, a faux snob who enjoys looking down on people. Honestly, who cares if people are drinking in an airport at half 8 in the morning? George eventually pushes Mr Brexit too far and a fight ensues, his wife is furous and embarrassed at his behaviour. How will George deal with this situation?
George is annoying, and there are a lot of stereotypes in this story but I’m guessing Dom was asking us to imagine how everyone felt just after Brexit rather than our own side. It is thought-provoking and I think this story says something about how much social media and the news dictates what we believe.
Story Four: Virulence
This story uses an even more recent event; the pandemic.
Mary and Duncan are dealing with life at the beginning of the pandemic. With four children all now being home-schooled, Mary being a SAHM and dealing with it all and Duncan being furloughed; tensions are already high. Throw in a racist, bigot father-in-law and Mary feels trapped. Mary can’t stand Peter, he upsets everyone he comes into contact with, including her children. When Mary and Duncan end up with the virus, Mary visits Peter under the guise of helping with shopping. Peter has not been abiding by the rules, so he could catch the virus anywhere, right? She makes him promise not to tell Duncan and leaves. Peter ends up seriously ill in hospital, will the guilt of what she’s done, break Mary or has she acted for the greater good?
Mary acts appallingly but again, she feels she has no other choice. When Peter ends up in hospital, she becomes the perfect daughter-in-law but will it come crashing down around her? Again, another male that is annoying and although I think Mary’s perception is warped, she believes in what she has done.
Story Five: Little Reed
A man is in hospital, we do not know what for. He has just been dumped by his girlfriend and wants to change. He is described as pale, skinny and hairless (I thought this story was originally about an alien), and so is waiting to go to theatre, presumably for some cosmetic surgery. The surgeon gave him some great testimonials about past patients and he’s keen to go through with whatever it is. However, just before he goes down to theatre, his ex emails him back. She’s in a new relationship and it makes him wonder what he’s doing. Too late, the porter has already wheeled him in, and the anasthaetist adminsters the drugs despite his protestations and concern that he is doing something he shouldn’t.
This story really intrigued me, I guess because I really wanted to know what he was having done and why after Paula emailed, did he not want to do it? I may have missed a vital point in the story! The man seems of low confidence and self-esteem and I felt sad for him. He is alone, in a hospital having agreed to surgery and throughout the story, he seems hesitant to go through with something life-altering.
Story Six: Appraisal
Harry is a CEO, he has it all or does he? His wife won’t leave their house, despite saying she will and he’s fed up. He has to do two appraisals that day, and he’s not looking forward to either of them. Neil, is hard-working and deserving of a promotion, but Harry wants to sell the business and keep as many shares as possible; he frames it to Neil that the board won’t let him. Offers Neil a 5% pay increase. Neil threatens to resign. Constance is the second one, and Harry’s latest love interest. She also threatens to leave as she doesn’t know where she stands with Harry and he can’t stand it. He asks her to give him a bit more time and she agrees to a couple more days, but she’s not willing to wait forever. Harry is annoyed that his wife won’t leave and goes home with the intent of giving her what for but she’s gone! Neil agrees to stay and Constance agrees to meet Harry after he tells her his wife has left.
I’m pretty certain that this book has been written so we hate everyone in it. I’m not sure if that’s Dom’s intention or not, but to me a CEO has a tantrum to two colleagues and gets his own way. It’s really annoying. Oh wait, I’m becoming like the characters! I do not like these people based on their stories but I don’t know them. I’m judging (fictional, I know) people based on a couple of pages and one incident. Oh Dom, that is clever!
Story Seven: The Fairer Sex
This for me was the saddest one out of all eleven stories. I actually really felt for Sam. He’s a dad, who has some issues and his wife finds out he’s been paying a sex worker. She kicks him out and he ends up going for a walk to the train station; he thinks about committing suicide but stops just in time. He goes home and his wife is willing to talk and they try and rebuild the relationship for the sake of their son. However, Sam cannot help his addiction and squirrels away money to see the sex worker again. Will it cost him everything?
This truly was so sad, a lot of things relate to Sam’s mother dying when he was little. It’s a sorry tale with an ending that was predictable but not satisfactorily so. I believe Sam could be a good man, with lots of therapy.
Story Eight: Revenge Porn
Audrey has come to her parent’s house. Her sister Virginia is in a depressive state and is worrying her parents and the doctor. It has something to do with an older, married man at work. She’s had a miscarriage, and I feel really sorry for her. Audrey tries to help and comes up with a plan to exact some revenge. She ends up working at the man’s company and works her way up so she can work with him as his personal secretary. She leads him on, in a revenge porn scenario but will her plan work or it will end in tears?
Audrey has her sister’s mental wellbeing and physical health in mind. I don’t agree with what she did and the story goes in an inevitable way but she has her sister’s back, no matter what. Again, just realising that the women all try and take a bit of moral high ground (even if it’s incorrect) and the men fall at the first hurdle.
Story Nine: Many Happy Returns
Ahh, another man who kind of puts Kit and George to shame a bit. Jake works for a charity, he’s not as successful as his sister and his mother shouts about her terrible upbringing constantly. He had a bad time at boarding school, feeling abandoned as a child and the hatred of his mother’s outdated and bigoted views riles him up. Twitter is the bad guy here, it fuels Jake’s ire and validates his fury. At a family dinner, Jake’s sister announces that she and her husband are moving to Australia, it sets their mother off, claiming that she’ll have no-one (despite their father still being alive) and then goes on a racist rant about immigration, forgetting that her daughter is now an emigrant, sorry ex-pat. Jake defends those who cannot defend themselves and it costs him a lot, including his sanity as he slowly becomes those he despised, pouring hate and vitriol through social media.
Jake is an idiot, so his mother. Twitter is a place where hatred can spew forth if unchecked, so is Facebook. This is a lesson that social media is not all it’s cracked up to be and you should be careful to research your newsfeed and not just blindly follow either side of an argument.
Story Ten: Career Opportunities
Sophie wants a promotion at work, not only does she want it; she deserves it. Seventeen years, she’s been working for Reynolds and she has poured blood, sweat and tears into it. The CEO is fair and wants a diverse board so she’s the obvious choice, the outsider male candidate who probably plays golf and drinks whisky. She’s single, no kids and 39. She has to have something to show for all her hard work. In the meeting, the CEO Jeremy, tells her the promotion was going to the other candidate. She literally begs for her job and he coerces her into giving him a hand job and then offers her the promotion, which she takes. Two years later, the Harvey Weinstein scandal breaks and she realises what’s happened. She has to dig the dirt but is she complicit as she took the job? She formulates a plan to get back at him and expose him, will it go her way?
This story resonated with me, not because anything like this has ever happened to me, but because it’s happened to so many women, in all types of professions and it’s always swept under the carpet. Or the woman pays for it. Sophie has a goal and knows what to do to finalise it after two years of feeling like she did something wrong.
Story Eleven: Just One More Thing
Colin is a busy man, he rarely sees his family as there’s always work to be done or his elderly mother to see. He has so much on his mind that he frequently loses track of it all. He receives a work email late on a Friday night about a Monday morning meeting, which sets him spiralling into a deep depressive state. There’s clearly something going on, here. Meeting on the Monday does not go to plan as he hasn’t had time to do the work required but his boos can see there’s something wrong. Then a big mistake comes in and although his boss knew about a deadline, he wants to pass the buck to Colin to take responsibility for it. Something in Colin snaps, and there’s often no going back.
Colin is a complex character, I saw a lot of my partner in him; the constant workload, the often distracted gaze. Luckily, he’s not gone as far as Colin (as far as I know!) and I hope he wouldn’t but it’s so easy to get caught up in the corporate world. I think the pandemic has taught us that our work/life balance is so out of whack.
“I need help.”
So there we have it, eleven stories all showing what happens when just one more thing is added. Would these people have acted the way they did if they hadn’t added that extra thing or gone to that dinner party, or moved into the house? Who knows? I loved the book, I really did, the characters are extremely well-written and they were so realistic! Social Media can be used for so much but I do believe it is good to be careful what you share and who you follow. This book has made me re-evaluate a few things and I’ve passed it on to my other half for him to read!
Thanks to Dom Haslam for the gifted, signed copy of the book and to Love Books Tours for the place on the tour.
A great, thought-provoking read.
📱📱📱📱 out of five