Wednesday 15 February 2023

Guest Review: The Best Days of Our Lives by Lucy Diamond

When 35-year-old Leni McKenzie is knocked off her bike, her family's world is turned upside down.

Leni and her sister Alice were best friends as well as siblings. But did they know each other as well as Alice thought? In the hope of coming to terms with her grief, she tries to piece together Leni's last weeks - but her discoveries only lead to more questions. And that's before the surprise reappearance of someone from the past. Life is certainly getting very complicated ...

Meanwhile, the rest of the family seem to be falling apart. Belinda, Alice's mum, has developed an unhealthy obsession with a clairvoyant, and Tony, her dad, is stressed about becoming a father all over again, what with three failed marriages stacking up behind him.

As for Will, the youngest McKenzie, he's in denial, having hopped onto a plane to Thailand days after the funeral. Secretly, he's tormented by the part he played in Leni's death ... and the thing about secrets is, they always come out eventually ...

Review: I am a great fan of Lucy Diamond’s books. Like this one, they tend to be full of family drama, populated by many interesting characters. This story was a little different, and I have to confess to finding it a little difficult to get into, but once I did it held my interest right to the end. Not surprisingly given the subject, many tissues were required during the reading.

The story centres on Leni McKenzie, although the reader meets her in person only briefly since she is knocked over while riding her bicycle and killed before chapter one. Her already broken family are struggling with coming to terms with her death, each dealing with it in their own way. Her younger sister, Alice, is trying to piece together Leni’s last few weeks with the aid of her sister’s diary and recollections from her friends. Her mother, Belinda, is spending a fortune on the phone to a clairvoyant who claims to be channeling Leni’s thoughts. Trying to hide from his feeling of guilt, Leni’s brother, Will, has taken himself off to Thailand, where he is struggling to make a living. Then there’s estranged father Tony who has different guilty feelings and the stress of his new family and a baby on the way.

I didn’t find this undoubtedly well-written book the easiest to read. Death is a difficult subject to write about I’m sure, but the author found what I considered an interesting angle from which to approach it. The reader is privy to the thoughts of the different family members, each of whom has their own way of dealing with their loss. Although Leni’s fate is central to the story, each family member is continuing with their own life, details of which lent extra interest to the book. Even though I met Leni only fleetingly, I really got to know and like her as the story progressed. I wasn’t sure how I felt about some of the other characters to start with, but they too grew on me with time. This is definitely a book which could be classed as a weepy, but there is a message of hope there too.

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