The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac by Kris D’Agostino

Nothing is a better barometer of failure than the success of other people.

Calvin Moretti is the reluctant star of Kris D’Agostino’s The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac, a story about a guy whose life is going nowhere much. Forced to return to the family home in order to pay back student loans, Cal finds himself in a job he hates but with little motivation to change his circumstances.

Back in my parents’ house, it wasn’t long before I started acting like my high school self. I did nothing, just sat around the house moaning.

Tensions run high in the over-burdened Moretti home – Cal’s father is recovering from illness and spends his day in a bathrobe, obsessing about his own mortality. His mother is strained by mounting medical bills, and Cal is clashing with his insufferable go-getter older brother, Chip, and his teenage sister, Elissa.

My brother can be summed up thus: type A to the extreme, vain, egotistical, money hungry, tasteless, insecure, vapid, demanding, yet somehow a lovable charismatic rascal. If I’m honest, I’d say I possess a lot of these characteristics as well, I just don’t have his drive to succeed, which makes for an unfortunate combination.

Funny moments are interspersed with the more serious and D’Agostino’s writing is consistently solid throughout. I think post-adolescence is difficult for a lot of people and D’Agostino captures it well in Cal.

The years roll by. They have been rolling by. I can trace my life (all twenty-four years of it) and see how I’ve come to the place I’m at now. It mostly feels arbitrary, as if every choice was made randomly, or without regard for the consequences. Or even realizing there would be consequences. Truthfully, I might not even have the fortitude to change anything if ever given the chance to do it over again.

One of my kids is at the stage in his schooling where he needs to start making some ‘serious’ choices. Although I know that these choices aren’t binding in the long-term, I do appreciate that they will have considerable bearing on the next five years. I am not hung-up on my children following particular career paths – I saw too many of my friends doing tertiary courses that their parents chose and the misery that came with it, so I just want my kids to be excited and enthusiastic about something. This line resonated –

“What I really want,” I say, “is to know how it feels to be passionate about something. To pick a path and go with it and not think so much about what’s next.”

2.5/5 Solid lad-lit.

Our yearly trip to Grandmother’s house in Cape Cod… We swim in the ocean, stroll through the mall, eat fried things from the seafloor, play minigolf, walk down Main Street, buy oversized sweatshirts embroidered with ‘Cape Cod’.

My favourite fried thing from the sea – panko-crumbed calamari.

As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and Melburnian winter. The results for the day I finished this book (July 6): Belfast 10°-20° and Melbourne 11°-15°.

3 responses

  1. Where is it set? For some reason that always makes a difference to me. I got out of home as soon as I finished school, my brothers did uni from home which I would have found suffocating, though I later lived with mum and dad for 6 months with wife and 3 kids.

  2. Pingback: 20 Books of Summer (except that it’s Winter) | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

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