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Katie's life is falling apart: her best friend thinks she's a freak, her mother, Caroline, controls every aspect of her life, and her estranged grandmother, Mary, appears as if out of nowhere. Mary has dementia and needs lots of care, and when Katie starts putting together Mary's life story, secrets and lies are uncovered: Mary's illegitimate baby, her zest for life and freedom and men; the way she lived her life to the full yet suffered huge sacrifices along the way. As the relationship between Mary and Caroline is explored, Katie begins to understand her own mother's behavior, and from that insight, the terrors about her sexuality, her future, and her younger brother are all put into perspective.
Funny, sad, honest, and wise, this powerful multigenerational novel from international bestseller Jenny Downham celebrates life like no book before.
‘Where are you?’ ‘Outside.’ ‘I didn’t see you.’ ‘I’m in the ball court playing football.’ ‘Does Mum know?’ ‘She told me to come out.’ So, whatever was wrong with Mum was so momentous that she was prepared to risk Chris’s life by sending him to play with the rough football boys, the kids she’d always thought would force drugs or alcohol on her precious son within minutes. Katie wanted to say, It’s my fault Mum’s crying, Chris. I told her who I really am. She wanted to say, Promise not to
those boys who died, your mother’s sons, you know?’ Mary nods. Of course she knows. ‘I told the doctors about that, but they didn’t think it was significant. Anyway, Steve had been so hands-on with Katie, and it was like he couldn’t bear to be Chris’s father. He started staying at work later and later, and even when he was home he always seemed to be creeping towards the door.’ ‘I’m sorry,’ Mary says. ‘I had no idea.’ Caroline tops both glasses up. ‘We appear to be getting drunk together.’
into the shallows to tip her into the water. She’d spread everywhere. She’d be washed up on the beach, swooped at by gulls, eaten by sharks. She’d sink to the bottom and lie there with all the treasure ships and mermaids. She’d wash away to Scandinavia and lap along the fjords to the mountains. Mary’s adventures would go on and on. ‘Right,’ Mum said, ‘let’s get some food down us. We’ve got a special treat for you, Mum, and I don’t want it raining before we get to it.’ ‘Is it sandcastles?’ Mary
Mary looked horrified. ‘You’re making me leave?’ ‘No one’s making anyone do anything,’ Mum said. ‘Not until we’ve seen the doctor.’ ‘I don’t want that to happen,’ Mary said, fumbling at her pockets. ‘I don’t like the sound of that at all.’ Mum unhooked Mary’s handbag from the back of a chair and passed it to her. ‘Is this what you’re looking for?’ ‘Thank you,’ Mary said. ‘Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out for a smoke.’ Katie held her breath as Mary left the lounge, waiting for a door to
up from school or coming to a birthday party. Jack could have come too. It would’ve been great. Maybe everything would have turned out differently. Katie plonked on the bench next to Mary and stroked her arm. Chris sat on the other side and stroked her other arm. If Dad walked in now, they’d look insane. Three stooges. Three monkeys. Three sad idiots. It was very quiet suddenly. A memory of Simona flashed into Katie’s mind. Why now? A vision of her laughing, the gleam of skin at her throat.