“A gripping and entertaining novel about marriage, a toxic in-law and a spectacularly dysfunctional destination wedding from hell.” Richard Glover, ABC 702
“(An) engaging, entertaining novel … with a cast of variously flawed and all-too-recognisable characters.” Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Sydney Morning Herald
Penny Flanagan’s new novel, Surviving Hal tackles
toxic family relationships and the destination wedding from hell.
“It does seem especially odd now, that Andy would not simply shield me from Hal for as long as possible, but, looking back, I think relationships, sexual conquests, held currency with Hal. Despite his better judgement, Andy still wanted to impress his father and to do so, he had to deal in Hal’s currency.
About ten minutes into the lunch, bored with the polite get-to-know-me chit chat, he stopped communicating with me directly and proceeded to conduct entire tracts of conversation about me while I was still sitting there.
‘You like them thin, don’t you son. Yes, very thin.'”
Smart, accomplished Nell Wylie falls in love with Andy, charismatic and vulnerable, the product of an uncomfortable childhood with a larger-than-life father (the eponymous Hal) and an emotionally abused mother. What begins as a compelling back-story, quickly but incrementally becomes a grotesque reality for Nell as she recognises the malignancy of Hal’s hold on her husband, his family – and their own children.
Penny Flanagan’s third novel is a characteristically keen and comical take on the progressive layers of damage generated by toxic family relationships, at times deeply disturbing, at other times incomprehensibly hilarious.
The dynamics created between Nell, Andy, Hal and their families are ultimately tested in a trip to Thailand for the ‘destination wedding’ from hell. Flanagan wrote Surviving Hal after attending a disastrous family wedding in Thailand. “It’s not what happened, but it is inspired by things that happened: inspired by a family of survivors who were relentlessly tormented by a defective patriarch.”
Surviving Hal is published by Puncher & Wattmann and is available now.