It’s not often that you get to read a book that manages to be heartwarming, amusing, annoying and heartbreaking all at once. Gail Schimmel cleverly encapsulates all of these elements in perfect balance.
The story centres around Catherine, Julia, Claire and Daniel, and is told from their alternating perspectives. Claire and Daniel are married, Julia meets Claire at a pottery class. Catherine is Julia’s mother. When Julia was very young, a cataclysmic Accident altered the course of her mother’s life in unimaginable ways, and she’s been living in limbo ever since; going through the motions purely for Julia’s sake.
Julia describes her mother as a ‘zombie’: unable to show affection or any authentic emotion. But she’s used to it. This is how she’s grown up – with a mother who’s barely been able to really be a mother. It’s made her what she is today – fairly resilient, she reckons, but probably pretty unable to sustain anything resembling a solid relationship.
Claire is one of those perfect yummy mummies – or is she? Behind that facade of perfection she’s actually hiding a crushing vulnerability – not that anyone could ever, ever tell! Schimmel’s description of ‘those’ school moms (you know the ones I’m talking about) is 100% on point. No matter what you do or say, you always feel like you’re a few steps behind, or that you’ve joined a conversation just a few beats too late. You’ll never be able to keep up!
And Daniel … what is there to say about Daniel? He’ll make you literally laugh out loud … while wishing you could bash his head against the nearest wall! Basically, he’s the quintessential male!
These characters are so very real. They’re exactly the people who could be standing in line behind you at the grocery store. The ones you chat with on your daily coffee run. The types that you’re very sure could become good friends, once you’ve moved past the ‘hi, how are you’ stage. Schimmel creates fully rounded individuals whose lives intertwine in ways that are entirely possible. And as you watch their story unfold, you feel drawn into their world, not as a bystander but as part of their narrative.
I thoroughly enjoyed this – it’s a 5-Star read that you’ll want to savour and then share with others. You’ll want to talk about it, dissect it, discuss it and analyse it. It’s a wonderful multi-layered conversation starter on everything from friendships, marriage, and parenting to suicide, life support and adultery!
Gail Schimmel knows how to burrow her way into the very heart of the matter. She makes it crystal clear that just because her characters might be so close to breaking point that they crack, it doesn’t mean they’re entirely broken … and then she gently, sensitively and subtly goes about fixing them.
The way she does this made me think of the Japanese art of Kintsugi! What’s Kintsugi? It’s a method of repair that uses a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum, to fix an object in a way that highlights (rather than hides) the damage. This celebrates the breakage as part of the object’s history, rather than as the end of the story – and this is exactly how Schimmel puts her characters back together!