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Getting Rid of Ian: A Memoir of Poison, Pills, and Mortal Sins Paperback – January 19, 2016
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Ian: Is he a pompous jerk? A control freak? A psychopath...or maybe all of the preceding? Whatever he is, he has few redeeming qualities. And two little girls from England want to get rid of him. Why is that? He terrorizes them; throws out their personal belongings; throws them out late at night; denies bathroom privileges; keeps a tight rein on the time spent with their mother, and makes weird demands. Finally, the two girls have had enough. So what do they do? Read this can't put-down memoir to find out. -- Marsh Cassady, author of "The Professional Writer: Getting Ideas, Avoiding Pitfalls."
From the Back Cover
Two little English girls in Mexico City plot to get rid of their crazy stepfather using poison, pills, witchcraft, and voodoo.
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The author does a splendid job of writing from a child's perspective without it being precious; precocious, yes. I was in turn rooting for them to actually succeed in "getting rid of Ian," and hoping that they would fail. At times, I wanted to "off" him myself.
Penelope James is one of those writers that brings me along, keeps me turning the pages and makes me laugh too. This is a splendid book that deserves a large audience and a movie deal!
Hey, if Harry Potter could take on He Who Must Not Be Named, Pennie and Anne (Pennie's co-conspirator younger sister) can certainly get a movie with He Who Was Named Ian. Just sayin'.
by Nirmala Moorthy
Author Penelope James has a rare gift—the ability to laugh at herself and at the problems of a difficult childhood. The end result is a story that should make the reader cry –if he could only stop laughing. She paints an array of eccentric, sometimes unbelievable, characters that in turn love, support, and bully two little girls taken away from their father to live in Mexico. Tita, a beautiful, fragile British-American-Mexican mother makes the most of a “Bad Leg” from a plane crash when she was 21, the reason for her having to “take care” of herself and not even hurry to get up in the morning. Their father, a retired British Naval Commander, is a dreamer, busy inventing catamarans to sail the Channel, and unable to support his family or even keep them in England. “Daddy thinks,” says the child Penelope. “It’s what he does. Most daddies go out to work but Daddy thinks instead. Thinking isn’t easy and there aren’t many people who can do it.” Penny’s first-person narration is rendered in a clear childish voice with no trace of blame or judgement. Her tongue-in-cheek humor imbues each character with magic, including “Granny in England”—completely upper-class British with a no-nonsense attitude towards her daughter-in-law, and “Granny in Mexico”—loving, undemanding, and from a family so conservative she “didn’t know the facts of life till three months after her wedding.” Even cameo appearances are unforgettable, like Mr. Tiltson who’s drinking tea on an English beach while a newly-invented catamaran is sinking into the sea. He finally agrees to go out and rescue Commander James and his passenger in a row boat “as soon as he’s finished his tea.”
And finally there’s Ian who forces Tita to get a divorce and marry him. Ian turns out to be an abusive villain who imposes rules and regulations on the sisters, frightens them with threats of physical punishment, restricts their time alone with their mother, and even deprives them of “bathroom privileges.” Life with Ian becomes impossible.
“Let’s pray for him to die,” says Penny. “But that’s a mortal sin!” says Anne. Well, they’d just have to go to confession when the deed was done and get absolved. And so they plot and plan and resort to prayers, sleeping pills, poisonous plants, and even voodoo. As Ian becomes more violent and paranoid tensions mount and the pace accelerates. Will the children succeed in killing him? Will they get caught, arrested, and pay the ultimate price? Can they ever break free from Ian?
The tension is enough to keep the reader glued to the book till the last page is turned.
Pennie is a skilled artisan of story telling both in writing and in speaking, and this is an outstanding example of her gift.
The book bristles with a magnetic tension of understatement, describing through the eyes of a child a complex childhood, without rancor, blame, or ridicule. It is a funny, sad, heartwrenching observation told with artful grace unusual for a child.
I am engaged from the opening and cannot put it down. It is a not-to-be-missed experience; an outstanding read!
I am hungry for more great work from Pennie!