This ought to be a depressing book. The protagonists are an ex-academic as much a prisoner of his mind as his vastly overweight body, a pregnant teenager and another in imminent danger of going definitively off the rails and his drunk mother the catalyst we only really see through other eyes. It is a story of broken and dysfunctional families, failure, lost hopes and isolation. Yet it is ultimately hopeful. A case of getting what you need perhaps not what you want.
The characters are vividly written and despite their frailties sympathetic and psychologically believable even if the circumstances are a little contrived. The writing is good and the story rattles along ending almost too soon, though enough hints are given of the future to satisfy.
The only niggly critiscism is that especially when the narrator is Arthur, the ampersand is used in place of “and” in full, but not consistently. If there is a purpose to this, it is a distinction too subtle for me – I merely found it irritating and a distraction from an absorbing and thoughtful novel.