Sandwich by Catherine Newman: Learning to let go

Cover image for Sandwich by Catherine NewmanSo many readers whose opinions I trust enjoyed Catherine Newman’s We All Want Impossible Things that I snapped up Sandwich which came with a feelgood billing and a Cape Cod setting, one of which I was sorely in need of after thinking too much about the state of the world, the other I find irresistible at this time of the year. Spanning a week in the holiday let Rocky and her husband have rented for two decades, Newman’s novel is about love, loss, secrets, and family.

Life is a seesaw, and I am standing dead centre, still and balanced: living kids on one side, living parents on the other.

Rocky is excited to be seeing her grown-up children Willa and Jamie. She and Nick are getting used to an empty nest, Rocky perhaps feeling the loss more than Nick. The family crams itself into the tiny cottage along with Jamie’s partner Maya who’s joined them for several years now. They do the same things they always do, Rocky glorying in her bright, beautiful children while anticipating catastrophe at every turn, filled with maternal pride and love coupled with menopausal rage. They’re joined half-way through the week by her parents for their annual two-night stay who Rocky would like to wrap in cotton wool. It’s a holiday like any other over the last twenty years but by the time the family goes home, grandparents going one way, parents another and the two children off to their newly adult lives, secrets will have been revealed, an understanding that some things must end gained and the joy of new beginnings embraced.

I just saw an ad for men who want to last longer. Who wants a guy to last longer? Finish up is my feeling. My library book’s not going to read itself!

Narrated by Rocky with self-deprecation and a pithy humour, Sandwich lives up to its blurb’s feelgood billing while dealing with issues of mental health, ageing and loss, unafraid to explore how it feels to be menopausal or reproductive health and the right to choose, a theme which felt particularly timely given events in the US over the past few years. Gazing at her children with adoration, Rocky remembers the early years of devastating exhaustion, the desperation for an uninterrupted night’s sleep and the constant anxiety of parenthood. When her parents arrive, she can hardly bare to witness their increasing frailty, well-practiced at anticipatory grief. She’s an engaging narrator, likeable, believable and given to a tactlessness that both amuses and embarrasses her children who adore her in return as does Nick despite frequent tongue lashings. A thoroughly enjoyable novel, which may not stay with me for long but comforting and entertaining nevertheless and far from frivolous, too.

Bookish Beck, one of the trusted readers I mentioned, has reviewed Sandwich as part of the blog tour. You can read her review here.

Doubleday: London ‎ 9780857529923 256 pages Hardback (Read via NetGalley)

21 thoughts on “Sandwich by Catherine Newman: Learning to let go”

  1. I’ve just finished reading this too, and on the whole I agee with your review. But wasn’t Rocky just a bit TOO aware of her arch-and-clever sound-bites? She was satisfying company: but only for the length of a novel.

    1. I didn’t mind that although I gather from Rebecca’s review that Newman’s novels tend towards autofiction and in reality, the smart wit would get under my skin.

  2. I was very interested to read your review. I attempted to read Newman’s first novel but the subject was too dark for me, even with her humour. So this book is maybe the one I could see through to the end! And I love a Cape Cod setting too.

    1. I hope you get on with this one better. Inevitably, given some of its themes, it’s dark at times but the lightness of Newman’s tone lifts it. I seem to read at least on Cape Cod novel at this time of the year!

  3. Terrific review Susan. It has quite the buzz over here, so I already have this on hold at my library. Lovely to read that you enjoyed it too!
    The cover here in Canada is much nicer than yours though

    1. Thank you! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. That cover is bizarre, isn’t it. I’d have picked up your edition in a bookshop if I’d never heard of Newman but certainly not the UK version.

  4. I’ve definitely been swayed towards this by the blogging community! I’m expecting it to appear in the local charity shops in a month or two so will pick it up then. And return to all these reviews!

  5. Much buzz about this one this hot summer … so I think I will get to it … but I agree that UK cover has got to go … lol. A piece of bread vs. a picture of a Cape Cod beach house …

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