Family lawyer writes a madcap tale with a moral about the havoc poor parenting can wreak
Alex Bellotti chats to author Laurie Avadis about a capucciono-swigging lion and a tale which he hopes will encourage parents to re-examine their relationships with their children
As a lawyer with over 30 years of experience of dealing with children in care proceedings, Laurie Avadis knows the psychology involved in a dysfunctional family. In his debut novel, EX, however, the 54-year-old has transplanted this knowledge into the lives of his madcap characters, with the hope that it can help parents re-examine the relationships they have with their own children.
The book tells the story of eight-year-old Daniel, whose 32-stone, psychotic father is concocting ever-more elaborate methods of killing him. His mother meanwhile has abandoned the family to live out her life as a mermaid.
As Daniel sets off on a journey to save his family, the reader is introduced to a surreal cast of characters – including a cappuccino-swigging lion and a flock of swearing ducks – and the tale is laced with dark humour. At its heart, though, is a universal truth about the havoc poor parenting can wreak.
“I didn’t have a great experience growing up, so that’s probably part of what caused me to want to go into the profession in the first place,” says Avadis, who works in Camden Town and lives in Walton-on-Thames with his wife. “If children are not able to find a parental figure to attach to by the time they’re 18-months-old, they’re potentially damaged for life with a detachment disorder. It’s what you see in what you might describe as your ‘dodgy’ boyfriend or girlfriend when they’re struggling to commit emotionally, and that’s often from where they’ve had difficulties in their childhood.”
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For Avadis, one of the chief challenges when he takes up a case is trying to “break the cycle”, so that a troubled child will not grow up to mirror their parents or seek out similar characters. “Where they have experienced their parents in a violent scenario, often they show a vulnerability towards finding partners who have the same attributes,” he explains.
In the novel, Daniel’s father, ‘M’, is a classic example of a repeated cycle. His son confronts the issue head on by paying a visit to his grandmother, who emerges to be a “maurading psychopath” but gives Daniel some answers.
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Intruigingly, despite his father’s repeated attempts to murder him, Avadis portrays Daniel’s relationship with M as more meaningful than his relationship with his mother. “In terms of alienation and what children suffer, it’s as much to do with Daniel feeling strangely that although his father wants to kill him, at least that’s not abandonment. It is an emotion – albeit a dangerous emotion.”
EX is being released using the website unbound.co.uk, which allows authors to pitch their ideas to potential readers in the hope of receiving donations towards the novel’s publication. In keeping with the spirit of the book, £1000 from the donations Avadis received was given to Shooting Star Chase – a leading children’s hospice charity caring for young people with life-limiting conditions.
In addition to proving an enjoyable read, he hopes the book will help parents find greater “emotional honesty” with their children.
“Any parent has to always be reinventing themselves and appraising what they’re doing, because children change all the time,” Avadis says. “They’re like sieves and will just take in everything that people are giving them, even when they don’t realise it because they’re observing all the time.”
EX by Laurie Avadis is released by Unbound on Thursday August 27 for £8.99.