What a delightful read this novel is! And the main reason is the wonderful character Lola Quinlan, a flamboyant and eccentric 85-year-old woman, who is sassy and funny, and about to go on a trip of a lifetime. Lola decides to return to her birthplace, Ireland, more than 60 years after immigrating to Australia. She enlists the help of her much-loved granddaughter, Bett, to join her, along with her great-granddaughter Ellen, to join her on this historic trip. But when Lola gets to Ireland she wishes she hadn’t made the trip as she remembers all the reasons she left Ireland in the first place.
Meanwhile, there is plenty of drama for the rest of the family around this time. Bett is a journalist and has agreed to let her flaky sister Carrie, write a blog while she is away. The local town is a flutter with the news that a new TV show is going to be filmed in the region, and Carrie is excited that she will be interviewing the main actor, a household name around the world. But their interview is nothing like Carrie expected, and when a photograph goes viral there are ramifications that couldn’t possibly be anticipated. And why is Bett’s husband being so secretive? Is he having an affair, like Carrie suspects? And Bett’s job seems to be on the line, so is this the right time to be going away, and how will her husband cope looking after their young twins? And then there is Ellen, how will this teenager cope with the limited phone time that Lola has imposed on her, in this age of selfies and instant updates?
The Trip of a Lifetime is a warm, engaging read with a big heart. There is a real sense of family throughout, and all the characters are quirky and well-drawn. But Lola is the clear star of this novel. With her funny one-liners, her colourful, over-the-top outfits, and her sense of fun and adventure. But it’s also a novel about Lola’s past, one that has been hidden from her family for all her adult life – and how the trip to Ireland brings old hurts to the surface again. Monica McInerney is a fabulous storyteller. This is a light, easy read that will make you smile. It oozes with warmth and laughter and the messiness of family life and love.