What Will Survive by Mark Gartside (Macmillan)

by Patrick O'Connor


IT would be all too easy for this story about a man coping with becoming a single parent to become over-sentimental and predictable.

But in the hands of author Mark Gartside, What Will Survive, will warm even the coldest of hearts.

Yes, it is a soppy love story, but somehow it works, drawing you into the world of working class 15 year old Graham Melton who is bowled over when he first meets 'posh girl' Charlotte Marshall at a party in 1985.

Graham has to wend his way through the usual teenage trials and tribulations with the often cack-handed but well-intentioned assistance of his best friend Tommy at the same time as trying to woo Charlotte who, on the face of it, is well out of his league.

But succeed he does and life couldn't seem to be any better. Marriage follows and a young son Michael, and Graham forges a successful career as an accountant. Then tragedy kicks in and Charlotte falls ill and dies, leaving Graham to cope with bringing up a young baby who later turns out to be a troublesome and stroppy teen.

Graham's biggest problem is how and when to loosen the umbilical cord which links him to Michael. In the background is the fear that somehow, tragedy could befall the son as it did the mother.

Graham also tip-toes his way back into the dating game and that too is fraught with difficulty and communication problems.

The joy of this book is that the reader is there all the way, willing Graham to succeed.