Book Review: The Other Mother – Jen Brister

When Jen falls in love with Chloe they have a great life and eventually decide that having a small person was something they wanted to do. As her wife goes through the process of IVF and pregnancy Jen finds herself as ‘The Other Mother’. There’s also the small matter that Chloe became pregnant with twins, it’s a lot for anyone to handle.

I have to say, I’m not a parent to an actual human child, I currently only have fur babies in my life so I can’t be the judge on how realistic this is but I found it to be a book that shares a lot. Jen is completely honest about her experiences, about how tough she found it at times and how boring looking after kids can be.

I found myself laughing so much while reading this book and now I’m desperate to see Jen perform as a comedian. It just feels incredibly real but also she’s not afraid to laugh at herself, her thoughts and her actions. This isn’t a book telling you how to raise a child or being the perfect parent.

Jen is also respectful of the privacy of her children. Her sons are referred to throughout the book as Twin 1 and Twin 2 and while she shares stories about her life with Chloe raising them, we don’t know their names. It’s clear that Jen wants to protect the identity of her boys and who can blame her? This book is about her experience of being ‘The Other Mother’ it’s not a biography of her children. I respect that.

Also, I can highly recommend the audiobook which is how I absorbed it and I really couldn’t stop listening. Although a note to anyone who does get the audiobook, be ready to laugh out loud at various points and look a bit nuts.

I gave this book 5 stars and have been recommending it to a lot of people recently. It’s funny but also gives a real look at what it’s like to be a non-biological parent in 2019.

Book Review: My Shitty Twenties – Emily Morris

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Emily Morris was just an average 22 year old, she loved travelling, her degree and was balancing that with a part time job. That was until she took a pregnancy test and it was positive. After the father telling her to ‘enjoy her shitty twenties,’ she knew she was going it alone.

I came across this marvel of a memoir because of a recommendation in a magazine, there was something about the title that grabbed me as well as the brilliant cover design. I’m the same age that Emily was when she found out she was pregnant so it felt very real to me.

I feel like I need to point out this book could have gone a very different direction. This is not a whiny, my life is so hard and it’s not my fault type book, not at all. This is a very different type of coming of age story. It’s Emily having to grow up and completely change the course of her life, with her son.

While reading, I honestly felt for Emily. There was no support from the father and a sense of losing her independence after she needed to leave her student accommodation to live with her Mum, away from the city she loved to care for her newborn son. I can say, hand on heart, that she is a fantastic Mum.

This book breaks down terrible stereotypes about young mothers. I think I loved it so much because she has the same spirit and determination that my Mum had when she had me at 21. That said, she shares the hard times as well, the fact that she struggled with postnatal depression and the struggles of being judged as a young mum trying to do her best.

I honestly think that this is an incredible memoir. It’s thought provoking and shows the best of a change in your life. I’ve given this book 4 stars I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to see what Emily does next.

Book Review: Happy Mum, Happy Baby by Giovanna Fletcher

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Now, I’ll start this review by saying I’m not a Mum, I’m not planning to become one anytime soon, so I’m not exactly the target audience for Giovanna’s new book. For those of you who haven’t heard of Giovanna, or ‘Gi’, she is an author, YouTuber, singer, actress and you may have heard of her equally talented husband, Tom Fletcher of McFly.

This is Gi’s first non-fiction book, talking about her experiences as a mother to two young boys. Now, if you’re looking for a book of tips or ‘how-tos’ this is not the book for you. Gi makes this clear throughout and her honesty is what is so refreshing. I picked up this book after watching Gi’s Youtube Channel for a year or two, she seemed smart, funny and honest about what it was like to be a mother. The book truly reflects this.

There is no holding back in this book. Gi talks about everything from her miscarriage, hypnobirthing, her worries and thoughts about her changing body, how children sometimes are just unreasonable, the joy her sons bring, the times she sat and just cried with them. Everything in this book is from the heart. She talks about the worry of mum guilt and how everyone has an opinion, how this has impacted her. The best part though is that it makes you laugh and not in a way that would embarrass her children. Gi can look back and laugh at things she may have gotten wrong or found stressful at times.

Much like in her videos this book is an extension of the friendliness Gi radiates. She is clear that there is no one way to parent a child, there are no set rules about what you should and shouldn’t do. Every child and every mother is different and that is something celebrated in Happy Mum, Happy Baby. There is discussion on breastfeeding and how hard it can be, on Mum sweats and more but it’s done in a way that you realise it is possible, you can get through it.

This book has made me feel more confident that one day I could be a mother, that I could actually do it. It’s brilliantly written and made me want to laugh and cry simultaneously. As of writing, this book is currently number 1 and I wholeheartedly agree (I’ve been recommending it to everyone to pick up). This is a five-star read and I haven’t read one of those in a while. Giovanna is not only an incredible writer but a fantastic mum and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Book Review: The Baby Laundry for Unmarried Mothers – Angela Patrick with Lynne Barrett-Lee

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I became interesting in this subject after watching a TV show called Lost Families on UK’s ITV 1,  a show trying to reunite families with their loved ones, often due to a child being adopted. As I watched again and again, the same story was repeatedly coming up. A young woman getting pregnant between the 1930’s to the 1970’s (ish) and being sent away in shame and disgrace or removing themselves to mother and baby homes, run by Nuns to give birth alone, spend mere weeks with their children (who were desperately loved by their mothers in the majority of cases) and being put up for adoption often leading to years of guilt and heavy secrets for the mother.  I was walking around my local library and I saw this blurb…

‘I’d been denied saying goodbye to my baby,

denied that last chance to stroke his cheek and feel his fingers grip mine,

to kiss his tiny mouth in loving farewell’

That alone is heart wrenching. The year is 1963 and a young nineteen year old girl is forced to wear a fake wedding ring, to go alone to a convent run by so called ‘women of God’ (which made me seriously consider why people don’t think religion is about power), to endure a horrendous labour with no comfort and no idea of what was going on, then to fall in love with her perfect little boy Paul only to have to give him away and why? To avoid stigma and ultimately to make sure she did not disgrace her family in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Although Angela forgave her mother and step father (after the death of her own beloved father) her story made me feel uneasy.

However it haunts me that throughout in all aspects of things going wrong or Angela feeling pain, she repeatedly asks God if he has forgiven her yet, desperately praying for her personal hell to be over, for her sins to be forgiven. To me, this in itself is pretty alarming here is this young intelligent woman, with a job in London and what seems to be a loving family (even though some love cannot be expressed) who does what she needs to do in societies eyes but ultimately pays the price her entire life because of wondering what God would think? It just proves that too me religion is so dangerous and don’t even get me started on these lovely nuns! Sister Act they were not, women were forced to work in heavy labour jobs until the day they went into labour, not laughing, no smiling, insulting these vulnerable women, leaving the babies all night long with no feeding and no changing, no holding the babies and god forbid you give your own child a kiss goodbye!  Even after leaving the nuns behind, Angela is terrified and heartbroken after leaving her son , she is later sure that being unable to conceive is God still punishing her for having sex before marriage!

Angela does move on, although never forgetting Paul, happily marrying and having a ‘miracle baby’, her daughter Katherine. Although the joy that pours from these pages when Paul finally gets hold of his mother is euphoric, it really makes you ecstatic even though you know it will happen! This story has made me realise the true bond of mother and child. I do not have children myself, although I desperately wish to have them in the future, it seems strange to think that within the next ten years if I am lucky I will have my own child.

It’s so clear that Angela truly loved this tiny baby boy the agony she must of had to endure hearing him crying and not being able to say goodbye.  It is both sad and beautiful, we know from the blurb  that Angela will find Paul again, for the reunion she dreamt of for thirty years, but in the thick of it you forget that, you feel her pain. This is a valid part of history that cannot be forgotten we must learn as a younger generation from these poor women and children’s stories and make sure that it never happens again.

 

This book is truly unique, heart breaking and inspiring❤

 

I give it 5 stars.

Review originally posted in 2012.

 

Book Review: Philomena – Martin Sixsmith

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After being made into a film starring Judi Dench I had to hunt down the book before seeing the movie, which I try and do every time. The book follows Philomena and her search for the son she was forced to give up as an unmarried mother in Ireland in the 1950s. The novel starts with Philomena’s violent labour, through the eyes of a young nun. The novel then follows her and her young son, Anthony through their time at the nunnery. The novel outlines her horrific conditions young women in Ireland in the 1950s faced, the worst being forced to sign a legal document stating that they will never contact their children again, despite bonding with them for three years. The savage beatings from horrific nuns and at times not being told as your child is simply taken away from you. The scandal of children being sold to Americans could have also been handled better. The novel does have a few unclear perspective changes I warn you, I got terribly confused at points.

I felt quite uncomfortable reading from what was supposed to be Michael’s perspective, because it really isn’t.  I don’t feel like we really get either perspective, Michaels or Philomena’s, the book is mostly guesswork from the author’s idea of what happened and the memories of others. We will never know what was really felt by Michael and I wonder if we can really appreciate his story in this manner. We will never know how he felt in his relationships with his adopted family, nor will we really know how he felt being a secretive gay man in the republican party at the height of the AIDS scare in the United States.

I desperately wanted to know more about what Philomena does after she leaves the nunnery. As fascinating as Michael’s story was I wanted to know more about the woman who had her heart broken, we are simply left to wonder and don’t meet her again for years. Apparently the book is also called The Lost child of Philomena Lee a much more fitting title than the one currently given because the book only really focuses on Michael’s life. I couldn’t help but notice throughout the novel the awful impression that religion leaves on both mother and son and the lasting effects on both of them.

I give this 3 stars simply because I got very bored with it. It wasn’t really a page turner and I could quite easily put it down and walk away from it. I felt like it was largely based on stereotypes and not always on fact, possibly due to the fact that a large part of the book was trying to put the pieces together. The ending was also a little disappointing and I’m hoping that the film version could possibly bring the story to life.

Book Review: Room – Emma Donoghue

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“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.”

Five year old Jack lives with his mother in ‘Room’, they play there, sleep there and learn there. Jack has never known the outside but his mother plans to make sure that he does soon. After being kidnapped Jack’s mother, simply named ‘Ma’, was imprisoned by her captor and rapist, she becomes pregnant with his child, which is is forced to bring up in the small room. For the first five years of his life, Jack has no idea that there is an outside, thinking that the TV is magical and there is nothing else. Until one day Ma makes a plan to escape, but she needs Jack’s help.

Copies of Room are everywhere right now, after Brie Larson’s oscar win, the film of Room has become a phenomenon. As with many great films though, a beautifully written novel is behind it. I read Donoghue’s novel a few years ago after it was recommended by a friend, I was absolutely blown away by it. The novel is an emotional read, there is no way around it but it also captures a world that hasn’t been considered before, the life of a child raised in captivity. The entire novel is seen through Jack’s eyes, as he tries to understand first that there is a world outside of the four walls he knows and then he has to try and navigate that world.

After their escape, which I read in a blur because I was so worried for little Jack through the whole part of the novel, both Jack and Ma need to adjust to a new world that they don’t know. Although we only see Jack’s perspective, Donoghue has also captured the effect that it has on Ma, after being away for so long. I think it’s more devastating because it is being seen through the eyes of her son, the only person she’s had in her life for years, as she tried to come to terms with what has happened to her and what will happen next. Donoghue is honest in the rehabilitation of these women and the hardships they face trying to go back into a society that has changed so much since they were last a part of it.

The plot mirrors some of the experiences of the big cases that have come out in the media where young women were imprisoned and gave birth to the children of their captors, although little is known of those children. The fact that Donoghue has gone from this angle is not only incredible in its own right, but even more so because she appears to have done such a good job of trying to imagine what must go through these children’s minds. There is also the issue of how these children are received, while Ma clearly loves her son deeply and does not associate him with her captor, it is understandable that others may struggle with the child being ‘the child of the captor’ as well as the victim. All of these subjects are dealt with in a respectful way and appear to have had a lot of research.

Of course I gave this book 5 stars *****. Donoghue is a truly magnificent writer with an inspiring talent. The way that the story is told is absolutely phenomenal, not only do Jack and Ma come to life, we really care for them and their recovery. I would definitely recommend reading the book before seeing the film, because no matter how many awards it has won, it wouldn’t have been possible without Donoghue’s magnificent storytelling.

Chloe Metzger

Sunday Seven – This weeks Favourites (14th -20th March)

It’s that time of the week again (although I don’t quite know how the week went so fast!) for me to write my Sunday Seven post. I’ve had a busy but not very picture worthy week this week so I’ve had to add in a picture of the wonderful Sylvia Plath at the end that is obviously not my picture, the rest are though! Enjoy my favourites of this week!

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  1. Star Wars Trainers (!!) 

Now, I already got some amazing slip on Stormtrooper shoes in Primark and didn’t get these and planned to go back and pick these up, by the time I got back they’d sold out! I’d described them to my Mum and if she saw them to pick some up and I’ll pay her back. She found them and this week I’ve been rocking the pink beauties.

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2. The Picture that mindf****d everyone this week

My Mum sent me the picture on the right today, while posting it on Facebook too. My friend commented that she was sure I had a picture like this too, which is the picture on the left. We look alike, we always have but with these side by side people couldn’t believe the likeness. I love looking like my Mum, I think she’s absolutely beautiful but I couldn’t help laughing.

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3. My Dobby Pop arrived! 

The second series of Harry Potter Funko pops have been released and I’m slowly acquiring them. I was a bit iffy about getting Dobby, but he is adorable and looks so cute with my collection.

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4. A Cup of Tea and a Good Book 

I was unexpectedly left with a hour and a half gap before my dyslexia session, in which I was able to grab a huge cup of tea. I’d forgotten how nice it was to get out of the house and just read somewhere else, without being interrupted. A definite, but expected highlight to this week.

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5. The Phonogram Series 

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are a dream team. I’ve previously read the 3 volumes of one of their other series’s The Wicked and The Divine and I was hooked. When this came into my local comic book shop I had to pick it up and I absolutely loved it, it’s made my top 10 graphic novels and I’, eagerly reading through the next one. It’s got goddesses, the 90s, Britpop, kick ass women and some amazing music references (and even a reference to Sylvia Plath). What more could  I want from a comic book?!?!

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6. Caitlin Moran’s Moranifesto 

Ah Caitlin Moran, my Feminist hero who made me realise that I actually was a feminist and the idiots around me were just bad examples. This is Moran’s newest book, only coming out recently and it is HUGE. I’m taking time to read it every night and missing sleep because of it. It’s funny but also deals with important issues from her Times column. One day I want to be as cool as Caitlin Moran.

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7. Sylvia Plath Interviews 

I currently have a love hate relationship with my dissertation. I love the topic and I’m passionate about what I’m writing about, but I have to write it and there’s so much to be included and finished in the next 6 weeks. Listening to Plath’s voice in interviews as part of research is definitely one of the better parts of my dissertation.