A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.
Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter.
But when Lexi’s struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love.
In this compelling and heart-wrenching new work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse, one ordinary family tackles unexpected difficulties and discovers that love can find its way through life’s darkest moments.
This book has all the elements for an emotional and absorbing read, and judging by the majority of reviews, many readers find this to be the case. But it really didn’t work for me. I have issues with the writing itself, and with the actual story.
Freya lives in a suburb of London with her perfect family. She is a freelance food writer, her husband Lockie is a freelance photographer and they have two teenage daughters – Charlotte, a together, accomplished musician about to take her A ‘levels and Lexi, a fifteen-year-old dyslexic who they discover has anorexia. First of all, the sheer perfection of Freya’s life at the beginning was irritating. Her relationship with her husband was sickly sweet. Her job as a food writer was a little too easy (as any struggling freelancer will recognise) and the fact that she was a food writer was a little too neat – oh, of course, her daughter has an eating disorder because her mum writes about food all day! I do understand that the writer was showing that the perfection was superficial, that the veneer of the perfect life was soon eroded, but it just felt very unrealistic.
Life with a teenager with serious issues isn’t like this. In reality it’s a horrible, emotional, exhausting struggle and that just didn’t come across here. The realities were glossed over. The book is set in the UK and as a parent who has experienced the NHS dealing with mental health issues, I know that treatment doesn’t happen this quickly, that everything has to be fought for. And although I’m no expert, I’m pretty sure that the battle many people have with anorexia isn’t dealt with this easily. This is an important subject, and I did feel that the author should have researched more thoroughly.
There were elements I did like. The writing is good on the whole, although the dialogue was very unnatural at times, and I was surprised to find so many unnecessary and off-putting dialogue tags in a professionally produced (and presumably professionally edited) book. It does veer towards the schmaltzy at times, but Freya’s emotions and frustrations did come across really well, and I did feel sympathy for her.
There is a good story here, and one that has the potential to be great. However, it all felt a bit rushed, a bit easily resolved. Aside from Freya, the emotions of the other characters, their reactions to the situation and their difficulties weren’t developed fully.
I do hate to be negative, because I do think the author cares about her characters and that there are good intentions here, but this is gritty subject matter, and requires a lot more depth than it’s given here.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a free copy for review