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In the Fold    by Rachel Cusk order for
In the Fold
by Rachel Cusk
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Michael was a friend of Adam Hansbury's during their university days. The two drifted apart and many years later, Michael is a London lawyer married to his peculiar wife, Rebecca. They have a three-year-old son, Hamish. Rebecca is a rather miserable woman who shows no fondness for either husband or son. Sadly, Hamish seems almost a deaf mute, as he has not learned to speak. After the second-story balcony of their townhouse collapses, almost crushing Michael, a dark British comedy unfolds. Michael heads off to the farm of Adam's father, to help his friend for one week while the father is in hospital.

Michael takes Hamish with him on this venture to the Hansbury estate, which consists of a large home on a sheep farm in the strangely named Egypt (Michael and his family live in Bath, England). When Michael arrives at the estate, he is disenchanted to find that the Hansburys (whom Michael perhaps idolized or envied in his university days) have changed. No one visits Paul (Adam's father) in the hospital. Audrey (Adam's mother and Paul's ex-wife) is a frequent presence at the estate even though Paul remarried Vivian. Audrey, Paul and Vivian have a bizarre arrangement by which Vivian gives money to Paul, Audrey, and even to various petulant children and grandchildren who show up regularly for handouts.

In The Fold is about a quirky family (the Hansburys) and Michael's visit to their sheep farm, where he gets a bird's eye view of this strange family in action. Even though Michael's own marriage seems to be falling apart, he cannot help but realize that he romanticized the Hansburys in his younger years and the entire cast of characters is flawed. Cusk does a good job of mixing in humor to create a dark comedy, although the plot itself meanders a bit too much for my taste. Surely, the Hansburys are an odd bunch, so that little Hamish was the only character I really rooted for in this novel.

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