The Motherload Book Club: Our September Bookshelf

The Motherload Book Club: Our September Bookshelf

Mine by Clare Empson

A second novel from an author whose first novel you loved is a funny thing. Will you decide the glorious first novel was a one-hit wonder, or will this book seal the deal and elevate the author to an all-time favourite, someone whose books you will wait for and pounce on forever more? Thankfully, in Clare Empson’s case, it was the latter. I loved Mine just as feverishly as I loved Him, and she can’t put a foot wrong as far as I’m concerned.

Mine is the story of Luke, a late-twenties man who’s just become a father, and who was adopted as a baby. It’s also the story of his birth mother, Alice. When the two meet and Alice begins to look after Luke’s new baby when his partner returns to work, it seems like a wonderful solution for everyone concerned. But Alice is carrying a heavy burden, and baby Samuel looks just like the baby she gave away all those years ago, and things start to turn a bit sinister.

The novel is made up of two timelines: the 1970s, when Alice is a young, talented artist and in love with the lead singer of a rock band that looks set for stardom, and the early 2000s, when Alice and Luke meet and begin to forge a relationship. The chapters are short and I loved being thrown from one time into the other and back again, as I raced to discover all the hidden secrets.

Clare is a very special writer. Her prose is lean and evocative, spare and yet rich. I long to lock her in my basement (I don’t have a basement) and force her to produce novels for my eyes only. I will follow her (work) anywhere.

Reviewed by Laura Pearson

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Overdrawn by NJ Crosskey

Crosskey’s first novel, Poster Boy, gave us one terrifyingly real dystopia, and Overdrawn gives us another. That’s quite something. She’s creating whole worlds, here, and they are frightening and well thought out and oh so possible. In Overdrawn, growing old is seen as selfish. People are assessed and given an EP (earning potential) score early in life, and as a result they are assigned credits to use for healthcare and education. When their health begins to fail, they are encouraged to ‘move on’, so they have something to pass on to their children and don’t use up all their credits.

Two brilliantly drawn characters live at the heart of this novel. Henry’s wife has dementia and Kaitlyn’s brother is in a coma. Both are running low on credits to ensure the ongoing care of their loved ones. Neither can come to terms with the widely accepted view that people should be euthanised as soon as their health becomes an issue. Are they right to keep spending credits to keep their loved ones alive, or are they selfish for doing so? When they meet and share their stories, they come up with a plan that might just solve both of their problems. But in carrying it out, they realise that it creates just as many issues as it solves.

Crosskey is nothing short of a genius. Her novels are shocking and really make you think about the world and your place in it and what the future might hold, but at the same time they’re rooted in reality – in strong, believable characters and the relationships between them. This book deserves to be huge, and it’s absolutely crying out to be adapted for the screen. Next, please.

Reviewed by Laura Pearson

Click here to find out more about the next Motherload Book Club read-along

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

I’ve put off writing this review for a long time, because the truth is, I’m not sure what I found so captivating about this particular book. I read it quickly and loved it fiercely, and I’ve pretty much failed to sum up why. But I think one thing that’s absolutely worth mentioning is the compelling nature of this work. I don’t think I’ve ever gobbled up a non-fiction book in quite this way. It reads like the most page-turning thriller, in terms of keeping you stuck to the page. It has an urgency. It burns with it.

The three women in this book are Maggie, Lina and Sloane. They are different, they are complex, they are unhappy in various ways. I felt like all of them came off the page to sit beside me, so well were they drawn. I read that Taddeo spent years writing this book, that she spent an incredible amount of time with these women before recording their stories, and it shows.

I felt equally invested in all three of these women and their stories. At the end of each chapter, it felt like a wrench to leave the one I’d just been reading about, but then immediately I was immersed in the next one and glad to be back with her. I feel like I’ve truly glimpsed their lives, which is a rare and wonderful thing.

This is a book that warrants rereading, I think. I don’t do a lot of rereading, but I think I’ll make an exception for this. And perhaps after a second read, I’ll have a better idea of what I felt so drawn to in this narrative. For now, I simply urge you to give it a try.

Reviewed by Laura Pearson

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Laura Pearson

Laura is a writer who lives in Leicestershire with her husband and their two children. When she’s not writing or reading, she can usually be found trying to get her son to put his shoes on, encouraging her daughter to sleep past 5am or moving small items from one room to another. You can follow her on Twitter and on her blog about getting cancer when she was pregnant.

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