The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue

It was the best of reads, it was the worst of reads, or so it seemed to me. The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue, author of Room, among other titles, has a lot going for it, yet some aspects of this middle school novel left me unimpressed.

The story centers on a nontraditional 11 member family (plus one), co-parented by a gay and a lesbian couple. Among the seven children some are blood relatives, others are adopted. A variety of ethnicities are represented and the youngest member is developmentally challenged. Needless to say there is a certain amount of chaos when so many people live under one roof.

The plot involves the integration of a heretofore absent grandfather (with signs of dementia), who previously had been living alone for many years. Having his independence undermined, combined with his relatively conservative views, makes him rather cantankerous and havoc can’t help but ensue.

If the Lottery family, which I found endearing, isn’t already eccentric enough, it is also nontraditional in other ways. The kids are home-schooled. They don’t own a car and they’re environmentally active. Although kale and multigrain pancakes are not unknown to them, they are not averse to bacon and eggs.

What I found distasteful in the novel has mostly to do with grammar which was also chaotic. The “daughter” Briar identifies as Brian, but instead of using the male pronoun, the author opted to use ‘she’ which goes against the current trend. The use of the subjunctive is hit or miss, mostly miss, which makes for some confusion. The book is heavy on dialogue which may appeal to its intended audience, but makes this aging curmudgeon long for some lengthy narration.

Perhaps the most distracting grammatical feature is the preponderance of apostrophes occurring in unexpected places. For instance, when I see a name with an apostrophe + s, I expect it to be followed by a noun. Instead, the apostrophe + s may replace the word “is” or “has” followed by a past or present participle. This could be acceptable in dialogue, or in an adult piece of fiction, where professors could then write articles about the usage. However, in literature meant for the child who is still learning about English usage, I find this unacceptable.

Because of my pros and cons regarding the novel, The Lotterys Plus One is an ideal novel for parent and child to read together and discuss, because there is much to discuss, and I have only scratched the surface.