Friday 3 March 2023

Guest Review: Picking Up the Pieces by Amanda Prowse

As Nora and her British Army officer husband, Gordy, pack up yet another home and leave the sun of Cyprus for the drizzle of England, she can’t shake a feeling of regret—at her failure to follow her own dreams, but also, if she’s honest, at having ended up an officer’s wife at all, drifting through a life of temporary homes and temporary relationships.

Since losing her parents at a young age, Nora’s life has been lacking an anchor: someone or something to make her feel secure. Her marriage has been her only permanent relationship, and just as even that appears to be fizzling out, a tragedy forces Nora into the role of legal guardian to her seven-year-old nephew, Ted. Faced suddenly with a responsibility she never dreamed of, how can Nora possibly offer the boy the kind of unconditional love he deserves, when she’s never experienced it for herself?

But as she navigates the precarious and unfamiliar world of parenthood, Nora begins to see herself through Ted’s eyes, as someone worthy of love and even joy. When she’s welcomed into the previously intimidating huddle of mums at the school gate, she has to wonder: is it too late to smash down the other barriers she’s built—and to have a second chance at a happy marriage with Gordy?

Review: I have read and enjoyed a few Amanda Prowse books now and was pleased when I spotted this, her new release. I have found that she writes thought-provoking fiction with a strong family content. I chose the audio version of this book, read by the author herself. As anticipated, I was pulled into the story from the very start and was left thinking about the characters long after I had finished.

The central character in the story is Nora, who is married to Gordy, an officer in the British army. They are currently preparing to move from Cyprus back to the UK for Gordy’s new posting. Nora is not sure she is looking forward to the move, and has been contemplating her life as an army wife, a role she doesn’t wholly enjoy. She is even unsure of how strong her marriage is, particularly as Gordy has raised his concerns. Out of the blue, a tragic situation involving her sister, Kiki, sends Nora flying back to England earlier than planned to look after her 7-year-old nephew, Ted. Due to a difficult childhood, Nora has never wanted children and has no experience looking after them. Her sudden guardianship of Ted means a steep learning curve, but she finds that she relishes her new role and unfamiliar situations, making her feel more positive and that she and Gordy have a more certain future as a consequence.  

I really enjoyed this powerfully emotional book and would not hesitate to recommend it. The author has dealt with some really difficult subjects in a skilled and sensitive manner. It is quite hard to read about Nora’s life, first her unconventional childhood and then her difficulty fitting into the role of officer’s wife on the army base, constantly moving around from house to house. Although coming about as a result of a traumatic situation, her enforced role as parent to Ted makes her see things from a different angle and realise the value of friendship and indeed her own value. As a consequence, she has renewed hope for her relationship with Gordy. I loved the characters in this story. Gordy was such a kind and patient husband, trying to give Nora the space she needs. Nora and her sister have both had difficult, if different, upbringings, but have been brought closer and reached a new understanding after things got as bad as they could. Ted was a lovely, but vulnerable little boy, at the same time wise and old before his time. I particularly liked the school gate mothers who Nora got to know when she was looking after Ted; they were loyal and practical. It was marvellous watching Nora’s outlook on life change throughout the book, giving her new hope for the future. 

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