This Is How It Ends, by Kathleen MacMahon, is surprise surprise (I was actually surprised by this, believe it or not) about love to the death, so to speak.  But not in a sword-fighting, Romeo and Juliet type of way (it never is in these modern novels, is it?).

Set in 2008, it follows American banker, Bruno, and Irish out-of-work architect, Addie, who meet due to a distant relation and instantly fall for one another.  With the 2008 US elections (which, as we all remember, is when Barack Obama won and became the first black president of the United States) as a backdrop, and the company of the ill-tempered and injured Hugh, Addie’s father, Bruno and Addie develop a loving relationship that defies odds.

I’m just going to say it, and if that makes me heartless then so be it.


This novel had all the the ingredients to be heartwarming, breathtakingly sad and downright romantic.  International lovers, who are drawn to one another despite the distance.  A historical event that has helped shape modern America.  A tragedy that changes everything.

And yet…nothing.  Really, I should of known this wasn’t going to be great when it featured praise from Cecelia Ahern, who I’m sure is a very nice lady, but also the author of one of the creepiest love stories of all time (P.S. I Love You).  Granted, I only ever watched the movie (terrible, I know) but the idea of a woman following love letters written from her lover beyond the grave (pretty much) is just morbid.  And sad.  But mostly morbid.

For me, the biggest flaw in This Is How It Ends, is that I couldn’t resonate or even really feel for the characters.  While they didn’t have any major flaws that turned me off them, they were just so very average that I instantly forgot about them as soon as I finished the book (quite seriously, I had to Google the book to find out what their names were again).  Bruno comes across as a stereotypical American, in love with politics and blown away by the election.  He makes it very clear that he has escaped America because of his fears that Obama won’t be elected, and he is proud of that fact.  MacMahon writes about how he was crying and overwhelmed by the eventual result, and while as an Australian I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like at the time, it also turned me off him a little bit.  So very…melodramatic.

Then, on top of that, neither Addie or Bruno work.  How is that even financially plausible, particularly since Bruno mentions several times about the economic crisis that will soon be upon them/  And then there’s the fact that they’re related, even if it is somewhat distantly.  To have sex with someone that you know is not only related to you, but also related to your father?  Just…eww.

Lastly, even though there was a definite climax at the end of the novel, I felt large parts of the plot (even if there were secondary) were left unanswered.  Hugh’s impending court case, Bruno beginning a career as a writer, even the relationship that Hugh and Addie have and whether he ever truly showed her how much he cared for her.  So often writers create mini-plots to flesh out the novel, but they are left incomplete, which to me makes the characters unrealistic and the story somewhat stale.

For regular readers (you rock my world guys), I do apologise for the less-than-happy reviews I’ve been sending your way recently.  Sadly the past couple of novels, despite holding so much potential, haven’t lived up to my expectations.

Have you read This Is How It Ends?  Have you recently been disappointed by a book, or felt thoroughly underwhelmed by a book, movie or TV show you were excited about? Let me know!

this is how it ends by kathleen macmahon

This Is How It Ends – (image taken from