Saturday, 9 February 2013

Books Read: Martina Reilly - What If?

When Lily Flynn's memory starts to fade, she dusts off the long-forgotten diary she'd kept when she was fifteen and slowly begins to fill in the details of her life.

Five years later, when Lily is admitted to Lakelands Nursing Home, a helper finds the diary and a letter addressed to Lily's daughter Deirdre with instructions that the diary be read aloud to her.

Lily's last wish is that Deirdre learn the truth about her birth so that she might be able to understand her mother's choices all those years ago.

And there begins a journey of three women - Lily, a young woman dreaming of the day she can escape to the city; her daughter Deirdre who has always felt responsible for the life her mother never had; and Zoe, the young helper who reads the diary to Deirdre.

As each woman steps back in time, they realise that while life might turn on a single moment, what happens afterward is up to them.

I was fortunate to win a copy of What If? in a Twitter competition that Martina Reilly ran just before publication day but even if I hadn't been lucky enough to win it, it certainly would be a book that I read at some stage as have read all of Martina's previous books apart from A Moment Like Forever.

Lily Flynn had always kept a journal when she was younger but when she realises that she's losing her memory she decides to start writing about things that had happened in her past that had had a major impact in her life.  

Five years later, Deirdre, Lily's daughter, has had to make the heart-wrenching decision to put Lily into a nursing home as it's no longer fair for Rick, Lily's cousin who's in his 80's himself, to look after Lily at home on his own.

Zoe, Lily's helper at the home, builds an instant rapport and picks up the journal that Lily has dropped and discovers a note asking for it to be read aloud with Deirdre present... so soon they begin weekly sessions where Lily's story is recounted to Zoe & Deirdre and soon more of the staff join in to hear about Lily's past including the secret that she's never told Deirdre.

Meanwhile, listening to Lily's tales forces both Deirdre and Zoe to re-evaluate the way they are living their own lives as both women are just plodding through life accepting their fate. 
Deirdre's working on a radio gardening talk show but she's no longer happy doing with what she's doing but that doesn't stop her butting heads when they bring in a brash new producer to 'freshen' up the show.  At home her life is no better, her house is full of nick-nacks and memories of the One she let get away.  Surely there must be more to life than this...

Although Zoe is still with her partner Abe she may as well be a single mother as he regularly disappears for months at a time working overseas leaving her at home to look after their young son. Will she take the brave decision to call it a day?

Alzheimers is a condition that you seem to hear of more and more these days, although maybe it's just that it's diagnosed more easily nowadays than when my granny was 'forgetful' so is certainly a worthy topic to cover in a novel.  

I certainly liked the premise of the past and present storylines back to back in this book but if I'm honest I actually preferred reading of Lily's past more so than the present day storyline.  But I was pleased with the decisions that both Deirdre and Zoe make regarding their lives. 

If I had one criticism, and this is a minor point, it was that the twist ending was a little predictable as I had guessed from quite early on what it would be, but that aside it was another great story from Martina Reilly and I cannot wait to read more by her in the future.

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