There have been no middle-aged folk in any of my recent reads. It is as if they have been spirited away to a far-flung galaxy at the end of the reading universe where they beaver away at earning the cash to put food on the table, or spend their weekends repairing the gutters and ferrying kids to sports matches. But no on seems to be writing about them any more.
Instead there has been a veritable deluge of books where the very old become all matey with the very young. Books in which the middle-aged, (for a variety of reasons) barely feature. Books like:
The Story of Arthur Truluv: Maddy pals up with Arthur after they meet in a cemetery. Maddy’s father, although still alive, is a remote, unhappy figure who is next to no help to her at all.
A Man Called Ove: OK, let’s be honest here, initially Ove hates everyone, but by the end of this sensationally successful novel, his redemption comes from his relationship with his new, young neighbours and their children. All the middle-aged people are idiots of one stripe or another.
The Lost For Words Bookshop: Loveday’s world changed in one unspeakable night of horror. She is left with no family. Elderly Archie takes her in as an assistant in his quirky Lost For Words Bookstore. There are hardly any middle-aged people in this book at all.
Our Souls at Night: Addie and Louis, two lonely small-town-America pensioners, form an unusual relationship that is complicated by the arrival of Addie’s 6 year old grandson. Gene, the father of the child, has issues that relate to the death of his sister. He just can’t get his act together. So Addie and Louis need to pick up the slack.
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises: Elsa’s Granny is eccentric (to put it mildly), but Elsa loves her. Even after her granny dies, Elsa’s relationship with her granny remains more important than her relationships with any of the other adults in her life.
And real life reflects this trend as well. Two Stuff articles this year have revealed the extent to which grandparents are having to raise their grandchildren. In one remarkable case a granddad is raising two sets of twins for his step-daughter who has drug addiction problems.
Where is the help should this happen to you? In New Zealand the organisation Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is your starting point. Where is the research on this social phenomenon? Raising our Children’s Children is a good place to start with its many stories about how other families have coped.
But, in at least half of the novels I have read on this topic, the young people are completely unrelated to their older mentors. So this could happen to any of us. Don’t get too hooked on that luxury cruise to Vancouver is all I can say.
If you’re interested in more stories about the older generation, try our If you like … Older adults behaving badly and other quirky characters list
It’s time for us to step up Roberta!