Book Review: The Good Mother by Sinéad Moriarty

About the Book:

The Good Mother

Kate has been through the fire with her three children …

Having been left devastated and homeless after her husband’s affair and the break-up of their family, somehow she has pulled through. Though times are still tough, she’s beginning to see the start of a new life.

But when twelve-year-old Jesssica is diagnosed with cancer, Kate’s resilience is put to the ultimate test. She has an eighteen-year-old son consumed with hatred of his father, a seven-year-old who is bewildered and acting up and an ex-husband who won’t face up to his responsibilities. And in the middle of it a beloved child who is trying to be brave but is getting sicker by the day.

Kate knows she must put to one side her own fear and heartbreak and do right by her children, particularly Jessica. But maybe doing the right thing means doing the unthinkable?

My Thoughts:

Sinéad Moriarty brings us a thought provoking and heart wrenching story of love, loss and family. Kate, mother of three, is forced to deal with the break-up of her marriage. Her husband had an affair and moved out, deciding to marry the other woman. The first part of the story shows us how Kate and the children cope with this, the impact this has on the children, and how they all pull together to support one another.

The bonds between the siblings is very strong, and even though they act out in different ways, they come together to support their mother through this time. Jessica, the middle child of the three and the only girl brings a childish charm and a level of maturity that is common among children who are forced to grow up too soon. However, in her, this just makes her more likeable, and everyone’s rock. Her older brother has a more difficult time dealing with the family break-up, as he looked up to his father more than anyone else. His support system are his sister and his girlfriend, who becomes a very integral part of the family and the story. The youngest, hardly knows his father, and is confused most of the time, acting out in any way that only children can.

The beauty of the plot is that the author portrays her characters in shades of grey. There is no right or wrong in this, things just happen, and after a point, you accept that and try to move on. Forgive, learn and move on, but it is not necessary to forget. The story moves at a steady place initially, painting a picture of Kate’s life, her coping mechanisms, and the support she gets from her father. The plot thickens when Jessica, who is absolutely healthy, suddenly takes a turn for the worse, and is later diagnosed with cancer.

In reality, unless you have had to deal with such a situation by yourself, it is not easy to relate to the shock, pain and horror of someone having cancer. The author has brought out the feelings and emotions very well, making sure that the reader is able to understand them. We are taken on an emotional roller-coaster afterwards, as we follow Kate and her family as they deal with the cancer. The way it affects everyone and how Jessica deals with it form the crux of the later half of the story. There is a lot to learn from Jessica, who though a child, has an “old soul” and wisdom that goes beyond her years.

The final question that this book prompts is this: Would you love someone enough to let them go? and, if you do, can you live with the truth? These questions are food for thought and this well-written story is a gripping read to the end.

Book Review: The Way We Were by Sinéad Moriarty

I was approved a copy of the book via NetGalley. Read on to know what I thought of it.

About the Book:

The Way We Were

Being a good mother is doing the right thing. But sometimes the right thing is not so clear.

When Alice’s husband Ben dies suddenly, her world falls apart. They shared twenty years and two daughters and life without him is unimaginable.

Having lost her parents while young, Alice understands her girls’ pain. At fifteen, Jools is at that awkward age and only Ben could get through to her. And eleven-year-old Holly looks for the answer to everything in books but this time she’s drawing a blank. Alice realizes that for their sakes she must summon up superhuman reserves of strength.

Somehow all three of them come through the dark days. In time, it’s even possible for Alice to consider marrying again, with the girls’ blessing. So when Ben turns up after three years, her world is again turned upside-down. The girls assume that their family can go back to the way they were. Alice is not so sure.

Once more Alice has to find the strength to be the mother her daughters need her to be. But this time what that means is far from clear …

My thoughts:

The Way We Were, is the story of a mother, a wife, a woman, as she strives to make everyone around her happy, to do the right thing as she sees it. Alice, our protagonist is juggling life as a General Practitioner and a mother. She has the support of her brother and throughout the book, it is wonderful to see how close the siblings are. Her relationship with Ben is just normal, the way most couples are, until it seems as though Ben is going through a mid-life crisis.

The author starts off by introducing the characters to us, describing their lives from day to day to give us a sense of who they are. Then slowly, the plot thickens with Ben taking an assignment to operate in Africa. He takes this as his opportunity to find meaning in his work and to do something more. Alice, having gone through the trauma of losing her parents, lives in constant fear of losing those close to her. The author manages to bring out the emotions and thoughts of the characters through this period and highlights the decisions they are forced to take. The children, Jools and Holly are polar opposites, and we follow their journey of understanding, acceptance and growth in this book as well.

As the story progresses, Alice receives a call that leaves the whole family in shock and mourning. Ben is dead. It is an unimaginable situation for the characters and the reader can feel their pain and emotions. The shock and horror of the situation and the need for Alice to stay strong for her children are key parts of the plot. The author describes the situations and how the children react. How they slowly come together as a family to support each other. How each one deals with the grief of losing a loved one. As time progresses, they slowly accept and move a little forward with their lives, to the extent that Alice starts seeing someone and the girls really like him.

Now imagine the characters’ shock when on the day of announcing her engagement again, Alice receives a call from Ben, her supposedly dead husband saying that he is alive and coming back, after three whole years. Is it possible to go back to the way things were? Is it possible to accept that things have changed, the people have changed and still live together? So many questions arise and form the crux of the later part of the book. The fact that Alice is willing to try everything to keep her marriage together, mainly for the sake of her children shows a deep sense of character. Though there were many times I wondered why something was happening, it all came together in the end. Ben’s way of wooing his wife and showing her what she was missing felt a little over the top and too easy for me.

The issues brought out are something many people can relate to (with respect to mid-life crisis and teenage years). The love between two people and the effort needed to keep a relationship alive, the sacrifices and compromises are portrayed well. The journey towards acceptance and healing is a long one, but is worth it in the end, if the effort is spent by all.

The story is well written and worth a read.