The Mothers’ Group by Fiona Higgins #Review @AllenAndUnwin

The Mothers' Group cover

Have you ever had a book that you put off reading for months, and then—once you finally started reading it—wanted to kick yourself for neglecting such a remarkable book? That’s how I’ve been feeling since I opened this book on my tablet the other day. I only meant to peek and see how it started, but I was drawn into the story so quickly, I had to keep reading.

The Mothers’ Group tells the story of six Australian women who meet at a support group for new mothers:

  • Ginie, the prominent lawyer married to a writer/photographer  who—as the primary provider—must leave her daughter’s care to a nanny.
  • Made (pronounced ma-day), the Balinese emigrant adjusting to being a wife and new mother in a place much different from her homeland.
  • Suzie, the single mother struggling to care for her baby on her own.
  • Miranda, the woman who seems to have the perfect life, and the only mother in the group who also has both a baby and a toddler (her stepchild) to care for.
  • Pippa, the perpetually exhausted, strangely withdrawn woman who shares little of her life.
  • Cara, the friendly woman whose kindness has a knack for putting everyone at ease.

Unlikely to have met under ordinary circumstances, in time the women form a strong bond of friendship as they navigate the joys and frustrations of new motherhood, supporting one another in ways their husbands and other friends can’t. But a day comes that puts their friendship to the test and they learn just how strong—or fragile—it truly is.

I really, really  enjoyed this book. The story is told through the perspective of each woman, with the story broken up into six parts. In them, we see not only what is happening in the present, but also the past of each of them—learning about the events in their lives that led them to becoming pregnant and participating in the mothers’ group. Having the story told in this way gives the reader insight into each of the characters. We discover things that they haven’t shared with the other women, which often explains why they say—or do—certain things when they gather together. There are a few shocking discoveries along the way that definitely shook up my perceptions of these women and their families. That made the book infinitely more interesting to me, because it enriched them all in ways that added to the story.

If I had to choose a favorite character, it would be Made. There was an air of innocence and vulnerability about her that especially drew me to her character. She had to deal with being a new mom just like the others, but she had other difficulties, as well. She was living far away from her family, in a strange (to her) new country. She had to improve her English, which meant she often had difficulty expressing her thoughts and feelings because she didn’t have the (English) words for it. Despite that air of innocence, Made had a great deal of wisdom, and a way of looking at things that proved helpful to her friends in many ways.

Higgins has created a vivid portrait of what new motherhood looks like, and didn’t shy away from making it as realistic as possible. Adjusting your life to include a baby isn’t easy, and it’s refreshing to read a book that confronts that reality, rather than showing the idealized fantasy many women expect while pregnant.

This book is simply beautiful, and I definitely recommend giving it a try!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Allen & Unwin via Netgalley.

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Author: Fiona Higgins

Title: The Mothers’ Group

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: May 1st, 2017 by Allen & Unwin

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the Book

The Mothers’ Group tells the story of six very different women who agree to regularly meet soon after the birth of their babies. Set during the first crucial year of their babies’ lives, the story tracks the women’s individual journeys—and the group’s collective one—as they navigate birth and motherhood as well as their shifting romantic relationships Each woman strives in her own way to become the mother she wants to be, and finds herself becoming increasingly reliant on the friendship and support of the members of the group. Until one day an unthinkably shocking event changes everything. This is an unflinching and compelling portrait of the modern family in all its complexity and intensity: love, sex, and marriage, and all the joys and tensions of raising children in an increasingly complicated world. Moving, provocative, tender, and utterly gripping, The Mothers’ Group will draw you in and never let you go.

About the Author

Fiona Higgins
Fiona Higgins

Fiona is the author of three novels – Fearless (2016) Wife on the Run, (2014), The Mothers’ Group (2012) – and a memoir, Love in the Age of Drought (2009).

She is published by Allen & Unwin and Pan Macmillan in Australia, with translations of her work sold into the Netherlands, France, Germany and Spain.

She has qualifications in the humanities and social sciences and, a long time ago while studying, once worked as an Indonesian translator, a masseuse and a spruiker of fruitcakes (not all at once).

A lover of travel, Fiona recently spent three years in Indonesia with her husband and three children.

She now lives in Sydney, but has itchy feet.

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A Hundred Small Lesson by Ashley Hay #Mini-Review @AtriaBooks

A Hundred Small Lessons cover

After a bad fall, Elsie Gormley has no choice but to leave her beloved house to live in a nearby nursing home. The house is sold, and a new family moves in—Lucy, her husband Ben, and their son. Right from the start, Lucy feels a connection to Elsie after discovering items she left behind, and often thinks of her and wishes she knew more about her. As Lucy settles in to her new home with hopes for the future, Elsie is caught up in memories of the past. Her memories are often focused on the house and the life she lived there as a young bride, mother, and—finally—a widowed grandmother.

What struck me most about A Hundred Small Lessons was the focus on motherhood. I remember what it was like to have a toddler in the house, and how overwhelming it could be. I also know what it’s like to look back at those years and wonder how they went by so fast… missing one thing, regretting another. It was easy for me to identify with the way both women felt, which was very nice and kept me invested in them throughout the entire story.

This was a sweet read, and I enjoyed it very much.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Atria Books.

atg

Author: Ashley Hay

Title: A Hundred Small Lessons

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: November 28th, 2017 by Atria Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

About the Book

When Elsie Gormley leaves the Brisbane house in which she has lived for more than sixty years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to establish their new life. As they settle in, Lucy and her husband Ben struggle to navigate their transformation from adventurous lovers to new parents, taking comfort in memories of their vibrant past as they begin to unearth who their future selves might be. But the house has secrets of its own, and the rooms seem to share recollections of Elsie’s life with Lucy.

In her nearby nursing home, Elsie traces the span of her life—the moments she can’t bear to let go and the places to which she dreams of returning. Her beloved former house is at the heart of her memories of marriage, motherhood, love, and death, and the boundary between present and past becomes increasingly porous for both her and Lucy.

Over the course of one hot Brisbane summer, two families’ stories intersect in sudden and unexpected ways. Through the richly intertwined narratives of two ordinary, extraordinary women, Ashley Hay weaves an intricate, bighearted story of what it is to be human.

About the Author

Author Ashley Hay
Author Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay’s new novel, A Hundred Small Lessons, was published in Australia in April 2017 and will be published in the US in late 2017.

A writer for more than 20 years, her essays and short stories have appeared in volumes including the Griffith Review, Best Australian Essays (2003), Best Australian Short Stories (2012), and Best Australian Science Writing (2012), and have been awarded various accolades in Australia and overseas. In 2016, she received the Bragg UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing.

Author photo and (partial) bio via Goodreads.

Bless Her Heart by Sally Kilpatrick #Review @SuperWriterMom @KensingtonBooks

Bless Her Heart cover

There were only three words in the English language that I hated with all of my being: bless, your, and heart—specifically in that order.

Every Southerner knows what it means when someone blesses your heart, so it’s no mystery why Posey Love hates hearing that phrase, especially after a lifetime of having her heart blessed by someone. But then, her life hasn’t exactly turned out the way she’d planned, either. She thought she would be a teacher, married with a couple of kids. At 32, she was married, had no children, and is a receptionist at her husband’s church, Love Ministries. She’s content with her life—for the most part—and feels completely blindsided when she discovers that not only is Chad having an affair, he’s also mismanaged their money and sold their home without telling her.

With no money and nowhere else to go, Posey goes home to her mother, Lark, whose lifestyle and youthful escapades were the source of most of the “bless your heart” comments Posey received throughout her life. With the help of her younger sister and her best friend, she’s able to clearly see her husband’s true character, and how he manipulated and controlled her throughout their marriage. After years spent following all the rules imposed on her by Chad, Posey is feeling more than a little rebellious. She starts breaking rules for a change—working her way through each of the Seven Deadly Sins—and starts living the life she dreamed of… on her terms this time.

The title alone was enough to spark my interest, but when the blurb mentioned it had “just the right amount of Southern sass” I was sold. How could I resist that?

Posey Love has earned a spot on my favorite characters list. She made me laugh so hard. I nearly died when she took a pole dancing lesson at the Pole Cat… SO funny! That scene is a treasure, trust me. The banter she had with her friend, Liza, always brought a smile to my face. I’m pretty fond of Liza, as well. I could completely relate to the moments when Liza is a sleep-deprived mess because her baby isn’t sleeping through the night.  New motherhood isn’t always pretty, and I loved the realism of all those scenes.

Another character I particularly liked was John. He definitely had flaws, but he was a good guy. I really enjoyed seeing how things unfolded between him and Posey, and I liked that it wasn’t always easy. Whenever there was a conflict between them, it made sense to me that (things I won’t mention) would be an issue for one of them. Chad, on the other hand, was a character I disliked him almost as soon as he appeared in the story. Later on, I came to despise him for something he did. I won’t give away what it was, but he committed a particularly heinous betrayal against Posey that made me so mad, I had to take a moment and say a few choice words before I could go back to reading.

I adored this book. All the characters (including several I didn’t mention above) are incredibly well written and (with the exception of Chad) delightful in every way.  Posey’s growth as a character was outstanding, and I loved the way she was able to take charge of her life and do what was in her best interests, and not worrying what someone else would think about it. While the ending came a little too soon for me—I wasn’t ready to let go of the characters yet—I loved the final line of the book.

Kilpatrick’s writing is superb throughout, creating a fabulous cast of characters that I won’t soon forget. This is the first book of hers that I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. She definitely has a new fan in me.

Be sure to put this one on your TBR list, folks! Trust me when I say you do NOT want to miss out on this little gem—this book is most definitely a book worth reading.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Kensington Books via Netgalley.

 

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Author: Sally Kilpatrick

Title: Bless Her Heart

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Southern Fiction

Published: October 31st, 2017 by Kensington Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

book worth reading

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the Book

Laugh-out-loud funny and unabashedly uplifting, with just the right amount of Southern sass, Sally Kilpatrick’s wonderful novel centers on one woman’s journey from unhappy marriage to a surprising second chance . . .

On the day Posey Love discovers that her born-again husband has been ministering to some of his flock a little too eagerly, she also learns that he’s left her broke and homeless. Posey married Chad five years ago in hopes of finding the stability her hippie mother couldn’t provide. Instead she got all the trappings of security—house, car, seemingly respectable husband—at the price of her freedom.

Posey’s mother, Lark, accepts her daughter’s return home with grace, though her sister can’t resist pointing out that being a sweet Southern wife hasn’t worked out as planned. And so, with the Seven Deadly Sins as a guide, Posey decides to let loose for once. Envy is easy to check off the list—Posey only has to look at her best friend’s adorable baby for that. One very drunken night at The Fountain bar takes care of gluttony. As for lust—her long-time friend, John, is suddenly becoming much more than a pal. One by one, Posey is bulldozing through her old beliefs about love, family—and what it really means to be good. And she’s finding that breaking a few rules might be the perfect way to heal a heart . . .

About the Author

Sally Kilpatrick
Sally Kilpatrick

Sally Kilpatrick writes southern fiction full of small towns and big hearts. She is a two-time Maggie Award of Excellence finalist, a Golden Heart® finalist, a Book Buyer’s Best finalist, and a National Readers’ Choice Awards triple finalist. Her next novel, Bless Her Heart, will be released on Halloween and explores what happens when a preacher’s wife decides to sample the Seven Deadly Sins. Sally lives with her husband and two children in Marietta, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. Visit her author website at sallykilpatrick.com or follow her on Twitter as @SuperWriterMom.