Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriaty

 

Title: Big Little Lies

Author: Liane Moriarty

Published: Amy Einhorn Books: Putnam July 2014

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Status: Read from July 27 to 28, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“Oh, we’re such a caring school,” the principal told me. Blah, blah. blah. Let me tell you the first thing I thought when I walked into that playground on that kindergarten orientation day was cliquey. Cliquey, cliquey, cliquey. I’m not surprised someone ended up dead. Oh, all right. I guess that’s overstating it. I was a little surprised.”

Big Little Lies begins with a death at Pirriwee Public School during a Trivia Night fundraiser, but the details are concealed as the narrative shifts to a period six months previously to introduce Madeline, Celeste and Jane, along with their offspring, at the Kindy orientation day.

It is at this inauspicious event that Jane’s son, Ziggy, is accused of bullying a classmate, Amabella, triggering a sustained campaign of hysteria by her high powered mother, Renata, to punish Ziggy for denying being at fault. Madeline, a veteran of schoolyard politics and never one to shy away from controversy, chooses to side with Jane, supported by her best friend, the beautiful and wealthy mother of twin boys, Celeste and as such declares war.

While the school drama escalates in the lead up to the Trivia Night, the three main protagonists have other important concerns to deal with. Madeleine’s teenage daughter from her first marriage wants to go and live with her father and his new wife, Celeste is barely holding together her veneer of perfection, and Jane is hiding a shocking secret regarding the paternity of her son. These complex characters are so perfectly formed it seems likely I could meet them at the school gate. This is unfortunately true too of the ‘blonde bob’ brigade, whom I am all too familiar with having endured 11 years of primary school politics (with four more still to go).

There is plenty of humour in this sharply observed novel of playground alliances, ‘mummy wars’ and domestic crises but as Moriarty slowly strips away the social veneer to explore truths about bullying, domestic violence, betrayal and infidelity its darker heart is exposed. As the tension builds, gossip swirls, secrets are revealed, alliances shift, and lies are found out. Ultimately of course the truth prevails, and the mysteries are resolved in the stunning climax.

Part noir suburban mystery, part domestic drama, Big Little Lies is compulsive reading. Thought provoking, clever, witty and wonderful, this is another wickedly brilliant novel from best selling Australian author Liane Moriarty.

Big Little Lies is available to purchase from

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Also by Liane Moriarty

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Review: Family Secrets by Liz Byrski

Title: Family Secrets

Author: Liz Byrski

Published: Pan Macmillan Au July 2014

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Status: Read from July 12 to 15, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

When Liz Byrski turned fifty she keenly felt the lack of literature that reflected the lives of women in mid life, and drawing on her experience as a journalist and freelance writer, set out to change that by writing the sort of books that she wanted to read.

Family Secrets is Liz Byrski’s eighth fiction novel, a story about love, regrets, forgiveness and redemption.

After a long, debilitating illness, Gerald Hawkins passing is both a cause for sadness and relief for his wife Connie, and his adult children Kerry and Andrew. For decades they have lived their lives as Gerald, a dominant man, had wished them too and now that he is gone they are all forced to find their own way forward.

Connie chooses to revisit her past, announcing her plans to go to England for an extended holiday, hoping to reconnect with the woman she was before she married Gerald and gave up her dreams to become a dutiful wife and mother in Tasmania, and to rekindle her relationship with her childhood best friend, and Gerald’s sister, Flora, who has been estranged from the family for many years. Connie’s journey is not what she imagined it would be however, especially when she is confronted with some home truths about the choices she made and the person she has become.

Meanwhile her children are grappling with their changing futures. Andrew, disillusioned with his career and his marriage, is unsurprised to discover his wife’s affair but determined to protect his teenage daughter, Brooke, from the fall-out. Kerry, harbouring long held resentment and guilt about her father is at a loss when he dies, and is left struggling with the symptoms of clinical depression.

Byrski explores the way in which it is often difficult to be honest with ourselves, and others, and the corrosive nature of failing to accept the truth. Each main character in Family Secrets is challenged to reconcile their past and escape the shadow of Gerald’s legacy by taking responsibility for the people whom they have become, and making changes that allow them to reconnect with the people they love.

I thought Family Secrets was an engaging read, not especially gripping but a thoughtful and well told story of realistic domestic drama.

Family Secrets is available to purchase from

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Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Title: A Man Called Ove

Author: Fredrik Backman

Published: Atria Books July 2014

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Status: Read from July 15 to 16, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A wonderful debut novel by Swedish author Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove had me laughing out loud, and blinking back tears.

“He was a man of black and white…. Ove wanted what was right to be right, and what was wrong to be wrong.”

Ove is a man who believes in order, routine and rules, he has worked hard all of his life, paid his taxes, taken care of his beloved wife and his house but now, forced into retirement and alone at 59, he no longer has any wish to continue on. He has made his peace, planned carefully for his departure, but is wholly unprepared for what follows after his new neighbours accidentally flatten his mailbox.

Undaunted by Ove’s inflexible opinions, gruff manner and short temper, Parveneh and her family make demands of Ove that he cannot resist. And then comes a mangy cat, a homeless teen and a man in a white shirt, and slowly, despite his best intentions, Ove begins to live again.

Simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, this is a story about love, grief, life, death and Saab’s. Told with heartfelt emotion, wry insight and a sense of humour, Backman has created an endearing character, few will be able to dismiss.

“It isn’t what a man says that matters, it is what he does.”

For all that it made me feel, I’m declaring A Man Called Ove my favourite book of the year so far.

A Man Called Ove is available to purchase from

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Review: Swimming In The Dark by Paddy Richardson

 

Title: Swimming in the Dark

Author: Paddy Richardson

Published: Macmillan July 2014

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Status: Read on July 02, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

An atmospheric psychological drama, Swimming in the Dark, the fourth novel by award-winning New Zealand writer Paddy Richardson, explores the themes of family, oppression, fear and the strength it takes to rise above them.

Set in New Zealand, this contemporary, haunting tale unites four women, Serena and her sister Lynette, and school teacher Ilse Klein and her mother, Gerda, struggling against a legacy of fear, shame and guilt.
Fifteen year old Serena Freeman is the youngest child of a family with a reputation for wildness and petty criminal behaviour in the suburbs of Otago. Studious and quiet, she has tried hard to avoid being tarred with the same brush, hoping to one day escape and create a new life, as her eldest sister, Lynnie, did seven years before. When Serena disappears no one seems to care but Lynette returns to Alexandra to search for her, determined to uncover the secrets her younger sister has been hiding.
Their worlds collide when Ilsa inadvertently learns Serena’s secret, a secret that revives terrible memories for Gerda of her time in Stasi Germany.

Beautifully written, this is a complex and gripping novel which I couldn’t put down. I’m loathe to reveal this story’s secrets, and at a loss to articulate its power other than to say I was held captive by the undercurrent of suspense, moved by the character’s struggles, and stunned by the novel’s conclusion.

Swimming in the Dark is available to purchase from

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Weekend Cooking: Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves by Dave Lowry

wkendcooking

I’ve decided to make the Weekend Cooking meme, hosted by Beth Fish Reads  a regular monthly post at Book’d Out. Cooking is something I enjoy and I have been making more of an effort again lately, so I am looking forward to sharing some of my culinary adventures.

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Title: Chinese Cooking For Diamond Thieves

Author: Dave Lowry

Published:  Mariner Books: Haughton Mifflin Harcourt July 2014

Status: Read from July 09 to 10, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I’m not sure exactly why I decided to take a chance on this novel but I am so glad I did. Funny, clever and fresh, Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves by Dave Lowry is a fabulously entertaining blend of mystery, action, a touch of awkward romance, and Chinese cooking.

Having been kicked out of college just before graduation, Tucker is heading home to Missouri in his aging Toyota when he crosses paths with the attractive and enigmatic Corrine Chang, making her way from Canada to Buffalo, NY, at a deserted rest stop. In the absence of any real goal, Tucker offers Corrine a ride, surprising her with his ability to speak Mandarin, and being surprised in turn when he intercepts a threatening phone call. Corrine, it seems, is on the run from a Chinese gang convinced she has $15 million dollars worth of diamonds missing from her employer’s store. Despite her protestations of innocence, the gang follows them all the way to St Louis, as intent on capturing Corinne, as Tucker, with a little help from the FBI, is at stopping them.

Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves is fast paced with plenty of action and intrigue, and just enough exaggeration to entertain. Snappy dialogue, liberally laced with sarcasm, is delivered with expert timing.

Lowry’s protagonist is an unusual guy. The son of white upper middle class parents (his father a retired agent of some description), Tucker practices xing-i, speaks Mandarin (and a little Cantonese) and cooks Chinese food, real Chinese food, with the skill of a native. He is simultaneously a tough guy capable of crippling an enemy with an economy of movement, and achingly vulnerable and self deprecating. The contradiction works perfectly to create a charming, quirky hero, who is supported by an equally appealing cast.

For foodies, there are plenty of tips for cooking authentic Chinese food, and a glimpse into the inner workings of a Chinese restaurant kitchen.

Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves is probably best described as a crime caper given the elements of humour, adventure and the offbeat characters. I thought it was witty, clever and interesting and recommend it without hesitation.

Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves is available to purchase from

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****

The few Chinese dishes I cook are unapologetically westernised versions and fairly simple ones at that. Today I thought I’d share one of my favourites, with apologies to Tucker, and Dave Lowry.

Oven Baked Chicken Spring Rolls

 

Ingredients

1 kg barbecued or roast chicken, finely shredded
1 large can of corn kernels
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp finely grated ginger
2 tsp sesame oil
5 tbs soy sauce
1 pkt frozen spring roll wrappers
1/4 cup (60ml) peanut oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 200°C.

In a bowl combine shredded chicken, corn kernels, onions, ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce

Lay out a spring roll wrapper with a point facing towards you. Place 2 tablespoonfuls of chicken mixture on pastry then fold pastry over filling once. Fold in side corners. Brush far corner with water then roll up tightly. Repeat with remaining filling and pastry.

Place spring rolls on an oven tray. Brush with peanut oil then bake for 20-25 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Serve with fried rice and/or a dipping sauce of your choice

spring rolls

Review: Mating For Life by Melissa Stapley

 

Title: Mating For Life

Author: Melissa Stapley

Published: Washington Square Press July 2014

Status: Read from June 29 to July 01, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Mating For Life is an ambitious exploration of love, relationships and the search for happiness by debut author Marissa Stapley.

The narrative unfolds from multiple perspectives, primarily those of Helen and her three adult daughter’s, Liane, Ilsa and Fiona, who are all variously struggling with romantic entanglements. Helen, a former wild child who essentially raised her daughters, fathered by three different men, on her own, is in her mid sixties and after years of eschewing tradition is wary of her lover’s urging for commitment. Liane has been with Adam for three years, but while holed up in her family’s lake cabin trying to finish her PHd thesis and imagining her future, she realises that he is not who she wants or needs after all. Fiona has invested everything she is into her marriage and children and when cracks begin to appear in the facade of her perfect family, is left angry and floundering. Ilsa, an artist and mother of two is growing increasingly dissatisfied with her passionless marriage to her much old husband and becomes embroiled in an illicit affair.

As the story unfolds, each woman is forced to negotiate the complications of mother-daughter and sibling dynamics, confront the choices they have made and reevaluate their priorities. What becomes obvious is that to successfully mate for life, they must first learn what it is they honestly want and need as individuals.

Each chapter is prefaced by a snippet from the mating rituals of a Canadian animal or bird which relates directly to the content. I thought the writing style was lovely overall, the descriptions of both place and emotion evocative, though at times a little over detailed. I found I was distracted by the additional perspectives added to the narrative from several minor characters and while I think the author chose to do so in order to explore another facet of her theme, I didn’t think it necessary.

While I could relate to some aspects of the themes of Mating For Life, neither the story, nor the characters really resonated with me in the way it has seemed to with other reviewers. For me, Mating for Life was a pleasant read but not a memorable one.

Mating For Life is available to purchase from

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Review & Giveaway: Colours of Gold by Kaye Dobbie

 

Title: Colours of Gold

Author: Kaye Dobbie

Published: Harlequin MIRA April 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 06 to 08, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Colours of Gold by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, is a captivating tale combining mystery, romance, history and a touch of ‘other’.

With the narrative alternating between the past and the present, Colours of Gold tells the story of a small girl found near death in a sealed barrel in the Murray River in 1867 and her connection to a present day art restorer’s discovery of a Trompe L’oeil in an old Melbourne hotel scheduled for demolition.

From the opening chapters of the historical timeline I was intrigued by the mysteries introduced by the author, namely the identity of the young girl rescued from the river, her extraordinary ability to see colours (aura) that warn her of a persons mood, misfortune or illness, and her fear of a tall man in a long dark coat that haunts her, day and night. Moving from the banks of the Murray, through the dusty streets of gold rush towns and finally to Melbourne, Dobbie deftly evokes the character and landscape of the historical period as Alice, and friend Rosey, struggle to escape their dark pasts, in hopes of creating a brighter future.

In the contemporary timeline, Annie Reuben is excited by the challenge presented by the conservation of the Trompe L’oeil found in the basement of the old Goldminer Hotel and intrigued by the people and the scenes it depicts, especially the figures of two young girls in the foreground. Despite the threat of interference by History Victoria, and a looming financial crisis, Annie is determined to solve the mystery of the painting, and find out what the sudden appearance of a man in a long dark coat means for her, and her daughter.

Well written, I thought the alternating chapters were particularly well structured, each advancing the story and merging neatly at the conclusion. Suspense is built carefully during the course of the novel, with the pace quickening as Alice and Annie get closer to solving the mysteries that concern them.

An entertaining and interesting novel, with appealing characters, I was surprised at how quickly I became invested in the story of Colours of Gold and how reluctant I was to put it down. This was a great read for me.

For your chance to WIN one of two copies of Colours of Gold CLICK HERE {open worldwide}

 

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Review: Expecting by Ann Lewis Hamilton

 

 

Title: Expecting

Author: Ann Lewis Hamilton

Published: Sourcebooks July 2014

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Status: Read from July 02 to 03, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

After two early term miscarriages, happily married couple Laurie and Alan seek fertility advice and agree to try Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). They are delighted, if somewhat wary, when they discover Laurie is expecting but as the pregnancy progresses past the point of their earlier losses, they allow themselves to dream of their future as a family. Until a phone call from the fertility clinic changes everything.

Told from the third person perspectives of Laurie, the expectant mother, Alan, her husband, and college student Jack, also known as Donor #296, Expecting, by Ann Hamilton, explores an unique situation where Laurie learns that the father of her baby is not her husband but instead Donor #296, thanks to the actions of a disgruntled clinic employee.

I felt for each of the protagonists in this story. As Alan struggles to accept the shocking news, Laurie has already formed a connection with the child growing within her, and feels compelled to find out more about Donor #296, leading her to contact Jack, whom she discovers is a college student of Asian Indian heritage.

For the most part I believed in the motivations and thoughts of the characters caught in such a complicated situation and I liked the way in which the author considered the issues from multiple perspectives.

I understood Laurie’s refusal to consider a termination and her curiosity about the donor. I too would want to meet him, though I would probably be far more reluctant to embrace him in the way Laurie does. In several ways I think it is admirable, especially as it means ‘Buddy’ will be able to have a relationship with his/her biological parent and family, but Laurie doesn’t really consider the impact on her husband, even though she professes too.

I was surprised at how much I sympathised with Alan’s feelings of jealousy, anxiety and anger and his concerns about his ability to love a child, especially one that won’t look like him, that is not his. His reaction, to distract himself with the fantasy of a relationship with his ex girlfriend, may have been inappropriate, but is somewhat understandable.

Jack is a fairly typical college student confronted by a decidedly atypical situation. Laid back and easy going he is just as indecisive about deciding what role he will play in the baby’s life as he is in choosing a major, or a girlfriend.

Hamilton’s tone is deceptively lighthearted, finding humour amongst the angst of the situation. The story is well paced with the shifts between perspectives, and short chapters, making it a quick and easy read.

I enjoyed Expecting, I found it to be both an entertaining and surprisingly thought provoking novel with an interesting perspective on an unusual issue. Ann Lewis Hamilton is a debut author with promise.

Expecting is available to purchase from

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Exclusive Excerpt: Expecting by Ann Lewis Hamilton

Expecting

by Ann Lewis Hamilton

” A mom, a dad, a baby…and another dad.

Laurie and Alan are expecting, again. After two miscarriages, Laurie was afraid they’d never be able to have a child. Now she’s cautiously optimistic — the fertility treatment worked, and things seem to be different this time around. But she doesn’t yet know how different.

Jack can’t seem to catch a break — his parents are on his case about graduating from college, he’s somehow dating two girls at once, and he has to find a way to pay back the money he borrowed from his fraternity’s party fund. The only jobs he is qualified for barely pay enough to keep him in beer money, but an ad for the local sperm bank gives Jack an idea.

Laurie and Alan’s joy is shattered when their doctor reveals that Laurie was accidentally impregnated by sperm from a donor rather than her husband. Who is Donor 296. And how will their family change now that Donor 296 is inarguably part of it?”

Excerpt

Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
—Alice Walker

***

The worst place your water could break.
The Hollywood Bowl. During an especially quiet part of a classical concert, not Darth Vader’s theme from the “Star Wars Suite.” You’re in a center box seat, close enough to see the sweat on the cello player’s forehead, and the space is crowded tight with four people, so an inconspicuous exit will be impossible. Your husband notices the concrete floor of the box is suddenly slick and wet and whispers, “Did you spill your wine?” And you’d like to believe him—it could be wine, but you know it’s amniotic fluid. Vintage, nine months.
There are several problems with this scenario, one of them being you’re not drinking wine these days. Pregnancy requires Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider, nothing alcoholic.
And two, it’s been weeks since your husband moved out of the house and into an apartment. So what would you be doing together at the Hollywood Bowl?
Another bad place for your water to break—a plane. Flying to the most remote spot on earth, over the ocean, four hours from any airport.
Or alone on a desert island. No doctors, no midwives. You always meant to watch the YouTube video that explains how “Anyone Can Deliver Their Own Baby.” Too late now.
At Grace’s house, sitting on her new Roche Bobois white leather sofa. “It cost more than a car,” she tells you. “The leather feels like butter.”
***
So the parking lot at the Trader Joe’s in Sherman Oaks isn’t the worst place; it’s not even top ten bad. Laurie is loading her bags in the trunk and thinking about how she caught the clerks winking at each other when they saw the crazy pregnant lady buying seven bags of dark-chocolate-covered pretzels. “The pretzels aren’t for me,” she told them. “I’m having a party. For my book club.”
Inside the car, she opens a pretzel bag—just to make sure they’re fresh—and feels something moist in her panties. Not a great rush of fluid, but the sensation is a shock all the same. The baby isn’t due for another week. At home, she goes to the bathroom, and when she looks in the toilet, the water is pink. She calls Dr. Liu and he tells her to head to the hospital.
Laurie’s mother is at home in Reno and still on crutches because of her broken knee—calling will only make her worry.
Grace is in Napa, annoyed at Laurie because she hasn’t been asked to be the birth coach. Grace is a wonderful person, Laurie’s best friend, but her alarmist personality (“Do you know the real probability of an asteroid striking the earth?”) is not the support Laurie needs in a delivery room.
Alan isn’t answering his phone. She could leave a message. Or not.
Laurie walks down the hall to the guest room. The door is closed so she knocks. She can hear the creak of the bed and Jack appears. His hair is messed up and he rubs at his eyes.
“I was studying,” he says. He fights a yawn. “I wasn’t asleep.” He yawns again.
Laurie considers. Maybe she should call Alan back and leave a message.
Instead she nods at Jack. “I think it’s time.”
***
On The Flintstones, pregnant Wilma tells Fred, “I’m ready,” and Fred gets so excited he hops in the car and drives off with Barney instead. Wilma remains calm, not worrying about how they haven’t invented Pitocin or epidurals yet. She’s a cavewoman; she probably has to butcher her own T-Rex if Fred wants steak for dinner. And she knows, even though he’s Fred, he’ll remember eventually and come back for her.
At the hospital, Fred paces and waits with Barney. He’s not allowed in the delivery room with Wilma.
Who’s going to be in the delivery room with Laurie? She closes her eyes.
Yabba dabba doo.
***
“Bring the notes for your final and I’ll quiz you between contractions,” Laurie tells Jack.
He frowns, his eyes wary. He’s changed his clothes, and he’s wearing a baseball cap—backward—to hide his bed hair.
“That’s a joke,” Laurie says.
Jack smiles, oh right, as if he knew that’s what she meant all along, and Laurie considers saying the word dilation just to watch his face go pale. But that would be cruel and things are crazy enough already, and this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be and goddamn it, Alan is her husband; he should be here instead of Jack, her houseguest, although that’s probably not the best way to explain her relationship to Jack, which is only insanely complicated and where the hell is Alan anyway? Jack takes a step closer and says, very gently, “Do you have everything?” Jack is sometimes surprisingly wise and perceptive for a twenty-one-year-old.
Everything except my husband. “I hope so,” Laurie says. She packed her birthing bag weeks ago and has only repacked it three times. She tries Alan’s cell again and leaves a message. “I’m on my way to the hospital.”
***
On the drive over the hill to Cedars-Sinai, she times the contractions. Every twenty minutes. Good, little chance of Jack having to pull over to the side of Coldwater Canyon so he can deliver the baby himself. The air conditioning in Jack’s car is broken, so the vent above her knees blows out arctic air and Jack reaches in the backseat for a blanket. “Sorry,” he says and she’s not sure if he’s sorry about the broken air conditioner or the fact the blanket is a tiger-stripe Snuggie, but it’s warm enough and keeps her knees from aching.
“Is there any music you want to hear?” Jack asks her.
“I have a labor mix on my iPod.”
Laurie plugs her iPod into Jack’s adaptor. Hits shuffle. Frank Sinatra begins to sing “I’ve Got the World on a String.”
Jack makes a face. “This is your labor mix?”
“What would you pick?”
Jack shrugs. “I don’t know. Something not as old-fashioned.”
“Old-fashioned? It’s Frank Sinatra. It’s classic. Some songs, some voices, never go out of style.”
“I guess. If you say so.” Jack doesn’t sound convinced.
Alan likes Frank Sinatra. Is that why she picked this song? She will try not to think about Alan. Sing to me, Frank. About rainbows, about how life is a wonderful thing.
Jack’s hands clutch at the steering wheel. Is he dreading what’s about to happen? None of us signed up for this, Jack. She leans against the headrest. It makes a snapping sound and pops back a few inches.
“Sorry. I keep meaning to fix that,” Jack says.
***
The admissions nurse is young, not much older than Jack. Her nameplate says “Constance” and Laurie thinks that’s a good sign, a name you’d like to see when you arrive at the hospital in labor. Nothing as upsetting as “Cruella” or “Maleficent.” Why is Laurie thinking about cartoon characters? Is it some symptom of early labor? They didn’t mention that in Lamaze.
Constance is smiling at Jack. “Your first?”
Jack’s mouth opens, but he doesn’t say anything.
Constance nods at Laurie. “First time fathers, you can always tell.”
“I think it’s my first,” Jack says finally. “But there could be more. Lots more.”
Laurie pats Jack on the arm. “TMI.”
Constance flips through Laurie’s file. “Super, you’ve already done your preregistration. You’d be surprised how many people put it off.” Another smile at Jack. “Do you know what you’re having?”
“I hope it’s a baby,” Jack says.
Constance laughs as if Jack’s on stage at the Comedy Store. Laurie clears her throat. Shouldn’t Constance be sending her off to a room?
Laurie hears a burst of music from Jack’s pocket, “Cry of the Black Birds,” from Jack’s current favorite metal band, Amon Amarth. “Cry of the Black Birds” is ringtone code for Jack’s parents. Jack pulls out his phone and moves away from the desk.
“Don’t worry. He’ll be fine,” Constance says to Laurie.
“I know, thank you.” Laurie hopes Jack is fine, but why are his parents calling? The timing is terrible; he’s worried enough about his final and now she’s in labor—she shouldn’t have made him come with her. When he’s off the phone, she’ll send him back to the house, insist his final is the most important thing in his life right now. She’ll be okay on her own. Alan will get her message and show up.
Unless he doesn’t. The contractions are coming closer together now, and she realizes she’d like to lie down.
Jack walks over to Laurie; he turns his cap forward. Then back again.
“Everything okay?” Laurie says.
“Not really. My parents are here. Here here. In L.A. On their way to the hospital.”
Laurie tries to take that in. “You told them?”
“My sister did. Blabbermouth.”
Laurie exhales. “Okay. So they know. But don’t worry about your parents. Or me. Think about your final. You need to study.”
“I can’t study now. I have to deal with this.” He points at Laurie’s stomach.
“This.” A tsunami-sized wave of guilt washes over Laurie. Her head feels fuzzy; the lights of the admissions desk are too bright. Like spotlights.
“I’m sorry,” Jack says. “I don’t mean to sound like an asshole.”
Constance leans over the desk, waving a form at Jack. “Mr. Gaines? I need your signature on this.”
Jack looks at Laurie, at Constance. “I’m not Mr. Gaines.”
The lights around Laurie multiply. She has to squint and her fuzzy head grows fuzzier.
“Will you call Alan?” she asks Jack. “Maybe he’ll pick up this time.” Why are the lights so hot? And why does Jack have two faces? With four eyes, two noses? Is this another sign? Will the baby be born like that? Everything is supposed to happen for a reason, that’s what people say. What people? Who would come up with a stupid saying like that?
“Laurie? You look kind of…” Two-headed Jack is moving toward her. And the admissions nurse, Cruella or Constance—Laurie can’t remember her name, but she has two heads as well—no, three heads, a hydra-headed nurse. That can’t be good. And she’s moving quickly from behind the desk and motioning at someone.
“Tell Alan we’ll name the baby Bamm-Bamm,” Laurie says to Jack before she passes out in his arms.

***

Copyright © 2014 by Ann Lewis Hamilton. Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

***

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Review: All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

Title: All Fall Down

Author: Jennifer Weiner

Published: Simon and Schuster AU July 2014/ Atria Books US June 2014

Listen to an Excerpt

Status: Read from June 22 to 23, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publishers}

My Thoughts:

“The day had stretched endlessly before me – weepy daughter, angry husband, piles of laundry, messy bedroom, a blog post to write, and probably dozens of angry commenters lined up to tell me I was a no-talent hack and a fat, stupid whore. I need this, I thought, letting the bitterness dissolve on my tongue.”

Allison Weiss is a busy working wife and mother who finds that the painkillers she was prescribed for an injury helps relieve some of the stress that threatens to overwhelm her daily. With a pill, she worries less about the financial burden of the mortgage, has more patience with her beautiful but sensitive daughter’s tantrums, is less distressed by her father’s cognitive decline, and has the energy she needs to meet her work deadlines. But soon one pill a day isn’t enough to take the edge off, nor is three, nor five, nor ten or even twenty…

In All Fall Down, Jennifer Weiner confronts the stereotype of an addict. Allison is reasonably representative of the modern, suburban, middle class woman juggling not only marriage, motherhood and career but also a myriad of other demands, such as the care of aging parents and financial concerns. Despite her increasing reliance on pills (Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin) sourced both from legitimate prescriptions, and later supplemented by purchases from clandestine internet based businesses, Allison dismisses the notion of herself as an addict, even as her life begins to fall down around her.

With realism, compassion and a touch of humour, Weiner charts how easily Allison slides into addiction – her retreat into denial, her growing desperation for her next pill and the damage her it begins to inflict on her family and her career. It all seems frighteningly possible, though opiates have never done much for me (I was once prescribed Oxycontin for an injury and they made me so violently ill I strained my vocal cords and damaged my inner ear, leaving me with laryngitis and vertigo for a week), I found I could relate to her desire to soothe the pressure, and the relief the pills must have offered.

While the first half of the book focuses on Allison’s downward spiral the second focuses on her struggle to recovery. Eventually forced into rehab, Allison still refuses to accept her status as an addict, she doesn’t relate to the women with whom she shares a room or group therapy and so continues to take refuge in denial, until she is finally confronted with the truth and begins to rebuild her life, day by day.

All Fall Down is a well written and thought provoking novel, gently confronting the issue of prescription addiction in an accessible manner sure to resonate with her audience.

All Fall Down is Available to Purchase

in the US

Simon & Schuster US I Amazon US I BookDepository I via Indiebound

in Australia

Simon & Schuster Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko I Amazon AU

and all good bookstores.

 

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