Review: Lives Like Mine by Eva Verde

 

Title: Lives Like Mine

Author: Eva Verde

Published: 7th July 2021, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read July 2021 courtesy Simon & Schuster

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My Thoughts:

 

“Packed tight and resentful beneath my careful layers of protection, there’s a gnawing in my heart as I fray between the versions of myself.”

 

Lives Like Mine explores where identity, marriage, motherhood, and racism intersects for Eva Verde’s main character.

Having been subsumed by her role as housewife and mother, with all three children now in school, Monica Crane finally has the opportunity to take a breath. Though she loves her husband, Dan, and adores her kids, twin twelve year olds Joel and Toby and five year old Fran, approaching forty, she’s realising she doesn’t know who she is, or what she wants.

It’s a crossroads many women reach, and deal with in different ways. Monica’s solution is less conventional than most, she begins an affair with Joe, the married father of one of Fran’s school friends, in part to reconnect with the woman she was before she was a wife and mother, to rediscover passion. Its not a decision I would make, or even approve of, but Verde crafts a honest narrative that lets me understand Monica’s decision, and recognise the ways in which it benefits her.

It helps that I found Monica’s husband to be infuriating. Monica’s identity crisis is exacerbated by the treatment she receives from him and her in-law’s. Monica is half black (Trinidadian mother/British father), while Dan and his extended family are white. Her in-laws, with one or two exceptions, have made it clear from the first that she is tolerated as Dan’s wife, and her children’s mother, as long as she doesn’t draw attention to her difference, or call them out on their racist remarks. Their barely concealed antipathy is wearing on her psyche, especially as her husband does nothing to protest, offering excuses for his family, or accusing her of being oversensitive. Set in post-Brexit England, Verde also highlights the escalation of both micro-aggressions and outright violence aimed at people of colour in public. Verde does an excellent job of representing the toll all these behaviours take on a persons sense of self, and their ability to interact with the world around them.

To reconcile with both her identity and her past, Monica also needs to reconnect with her parents, from whom she has been estranged since was sixteen. That separation, and the reasons for it, has impacted on many facets of her life. Coming to terms with those relationships is an important element is she wants to move forward.

Lives Like Mine is bold, Insightful and honest, with a complex protagonist that demands to be heard. An excellent debut.

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