Thanks once again go out to the lovely Sarah, representing publisher Bookouture, for including me in this ‘Books on Tour’ outing, and to the great team at NetGalley, who always make downloads so easy to acquire.
MY ONLY CHILD
There he is, my baby boy. His eyes are closed, his tiny rosebud mouth is pursed in sleep. My eyes well up as I catch a whiff of his new-born skin and I swallow back a wave of emotion. I should feel happy, I should feel grateful, but all I can think about is everything I just lost…
It’s a miracle when Katherine’s baby boy Jamie is born healthy. He had such a slim chance of survival, and Katherine’s husband Davis and her mother Hazel are relieved to finally hold him in their arms. But then Katherine is told she can’t have any more children, and she can’t bear to tell Hazel what else she and Davis lost in order to save Jamie.
Jamie’s twin sister didn’t survive and, even as Katherine nestles Jamie’s body into hers, she feels like something is missing. As weeks turn into months, she is desperate for Davis to agree to adopt a sibling for Jamie. But Davis is concerned that Katherine isn’t coping, and even Hazel, unaware of the true depth of Katherine’s grief, can see that the pressure she is putting on herself is pushing her to breaking point.
Katherine won’t give up on the chance to have more children, no matter how challenging an adoption might be. But then Hazel reveals a devastating secret that changes everything Katherine thought she knew about her own childhood. And she realises that in her pursuit of another child, she could lose the family she has fought so hard to save…
She loves a story that can make her feel deeply, cry hard, appreciate the present moment and change her life for the better – if only for a little while.
As a child, Sam was forever getting in trouble for being caught with her nose in a book, and these days are no different.
She lives on the south coast of England with her husband, two children and a cat that thinks it’s a dog.
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CHAPTER ONE – HAZEL
“I stared open-mouthed at the man dressed in pale blue scrubs standing opposite me in the waiting room. His dark hair was cropped short, his right hand held self-consciously in front of his abdomen. Squinting, I saw the tell-tale splatter of blood he was trying to conceal beneath it”
“I closed my eyes, trying to remind myself that this wasn’t about me. They probably hadn’t given me a second thought since the baby was born; they had too much on their minds. But still, I couldn’t squash the loneliness, the sense of being discarded and unloved. I’d given every last drop of my energy to my family, and I’d never had the slightest regret about it. I’d done it willingly, adapting to each new stage as it came. I’d rubbed antiseptic cream on grazed knees, superglued broken toys, wiped snotty noses and read bedtime stories until my throat grew hoarse.
I’d spent hours poring over sticker books and discussing the best place to position each one, something Katherine had taken very seriously when she was small. As she grew, I’d been there when she fell out with school friends, listening and consoling for as long as she needed. I’d been ready when she took her first steps into puberty and held back my tears as she transformed from my little girl into a teenager with all the hormones I’d half hoped to escape.
I’d talked her through her volatile emotions, her crushes, her anxieties, helped her find a skincare routine to deal with her dry skin. I’d driven her to parties and waited up to make sure she got home safe. And then, from what appeared to me as out of the blue, she stepped into the next phase of her life, making a conscious choice not to take me along with her. She’d left without a backwards glance. I’d never imagined that the next stage of her life would be one that didn’t involve me. It broke my heart to feel the ever-growing void between us. From being her everything, having so much purpose, I’d found myself cast out and floundering, searching for meaning in a life that seemed suddenly very empty.
I could understand her desire to step out into the world on her own. To explore her boundaries without me hanging around in the wings. And though it had been hard, I had tried to give her the space she so obviously craved. But things were different now. She was a mother, and whether se realised it or not, she would need me over the coming months and years. And I needed her too. I needed a reason to wake up in the morning. A purpose. I’d been patient, I’d given her breathing space, but now it was time for her to let me back into her life again. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew I had to find a way”
“No one knows what I lost”
Oh My Goodness! This is the first book I have read by this amazing author and I really don’t know if I have the emotional strength to read any more, if they are all like this one! – There just aren’t enough tissues in the world to soak up all these tears – of both sadness and joy!!
Three short opening lines had me hooked, half guessing that bad news was to follow, but never knowing just how bad. The storyline had the right balance between plot and characters, although I think that there was definitely a strong third element central to this book, that of emotion. The ending was as divinely satisfying as I had hoped it might be, yet not in a contrived and sickly fashion.
I was half expecting it to come to light in Sam’s biography, that she had also enjoyed a career in the social sector, as there is so much attention to detail, not only in the fluidly written physical storyline, but also in the richly crafted and effortless narrative and dialogue. The research to get the balance just right was impeccable. My Only Child is a story revealed in the ‘then and now’; narrated in the ‘now’ in alternating chapters, by mother and daughter Hazel and Katherine; with Hazel sometimes taking time out to reflect back into the ‘then’ of her own unconventional past.
A desperately intense, powerful and multi-layered story, written with total confidence and authority by an author skilled in the imagery of words. There were so many emotionally traumatic, disturbing and compelling elements to this storyline, which might be difficult to read about, however the final package was told perceptively and intuitively, with real heart and compassion.
Sam took charge of the story outline masterfully and knew exactly which direction she wanted to go with it, however it was if she then gave the individual characters free reign and space to flesh out the details in their own time and at their own pace. So as not to reveal any additional spoilers to those the author chooses to share, the premise does offer a very good outline of the story, although there are the inevitable twists and turns along the way, that I never saw coming and would never have been able to pre-empt. This was such a great penetrating study of family dynamics and one which I could invest in all the way.
There are really only three central characters to this storyline, none of which, I have to say, were easy to connect with, although they all had very compelling voices. The emotional complexity of the situation, left them feeling alone and searching for a sense of worth and belonging, almost to the point of self-destruction. Their individual passion was raw, although channelled in very different directions. Each of them certain they knew what the others were thinking and how they felt, when if they had only found it within themselves to sit and talk out loud and let those emotions out into the open, much of the ensuing heartache and heartbreak could have been avoided – but then, is that really in our nature as humans?
Losing a child is never easy, no matter what the circumstances, so when a grieving, but determined Katherine is left by her husband Davis, to make all the choices about how their lives should move forward, rationale goes by the wayside and so potentially, does their relationship. It takes the firm hand and unselfish cool head of Katherine’s mother to instigate the change that might get things back on track, although nothing can be certain once she has unburdened her own, long held guilty secrets. Finally, Sam gave Davis the voice I suspected he always had and the outpouring of his own locked up grief, had me turning the pages ever faster. Ultimately though, it was down to Katherine, the instigator of much of her own unhappiness, who has to make that life-changing decision whether to unite this fledgling family unit, or irretrievably tear it apart!
As a reader, there are so many different journeys I could have taken with this story and my personal area of focus may not have been the same as anyone else’s, but that’s what made this lovingly written book, so special!
A complimentary kindle download of this book for review purposes, was made available by the publisher and supplied by NetGalley.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars and a place on my Goodreads ‘favourites’ shelf!