This time of year we are barraged with those end of the year best book lists. I was pleased to see that Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe made The New York Times list of the 100 best books in 2015. I learned of this novel from an old friend in Massachusetts. She is a dear friend, lover of libraries, and voracious reader. I trust her suggestions. Perhaps the best way of finding good books will always be word of mouth.
I’m usually not a fan of books told from a child’s point of view, but Man at the Helm is a wonderful exception. Lizzie, the middle child, of a “posh” English family reports on the demise of her family after her parent’s divorce and her mother’s inability to cope.
Lizzie moves with her mother and siblings to a small village in the country. This is the story of their struggle to make a new life. Lizzie and her sister think that if they can only find a “man at the helm” for their mother, all of their problems will be solved. Not only ignored, but often shunned in this new rural life, the girls create a list of possible candidates, with hilarious results.
While there is great humor on every page, like all comedy, tragedy lurks just under the surface. Lizzie’s mother is an alcoholic and suffers from depression. Man at the Helm is both heart wrenching and a sheer delight, definitely a novel worthy of the “best” lists.