Rebecca is a happy childfree woman whose world is turned upside down one Friday night when her husband’s ex-girlfriend Cara appears at her door, 4-year old daughter in tow.
Rebecca’s husband is the child’s father, that much is clear from the uncanny resemblance, but why has Cara suddenly decided he gets to be a part of her life now? She’s kept the child a secret for four years, so what’s changed?
This review contains spoilers.
The title of this book caught my eye immediately as a stepmother myself and I was intrigued to find out what a fictional story about the subject might look like.
Rebecca is a great main character, Robinson captures her thoughts and feelings brilliantly and I found myself relating to so much of Rebecca’s inner world. To begin with, I was unsure whether the author had children or not because of how well she managed to portray this character (it became clear later which side of this fence the author sits on!) There were so many ‘YES!’ moments when Rebecca was navigating the pro-natalist world of other people’s opinions – something we childless have to deal with on a daily basis. Her emotions reverberated through me – she felt what I feel.
The chapters switch from Rebecca’s perspective to Cara’s – not an easy thing to achieve because it’s impossible, by definition, for anyone to truly understand both sides of the coin of mother/not mother. Cara’s chapters, at first, made me really angry. This woman didn’t tell the father (Jack) that she was pregnant and gave him no chance to know his daughter. Not only that, but when it suited her, she came around demanding things and lying and cheating to get her own way, using this small child as a weapon. Perhaps this cut me more deeply because it is so reminiscent of my own experience as a step parent.
Jack remains mostly unknown throughout the book and is almost insignificant to the story, which again got my hackles up. He’s the father, and yet Rebecca is the one who takes on all the parental tasks and becomes the centre of everything.
My initial thrill at reading a book that not only touched on a very personal subject, but did so with great respect and authenticity was sadly short-lived. To find out why, read the triggers section below. However, I have rated it 4 stars because it is written so well and with so much thought, initially, for how a woman in Rebecca’s situation might feel.
This will be a book that splits opinions. Every mother will see it from Cara’s perspective, and every childless woman will see if from Rebecca’s. Sadly, I am in the minority ‘childless’ group and therefore the ending I would have liked has been wrapped in pro-natalism and sparkles.
By the end of the book, Cara is no longer in the picture and Rebecca is the child’s ‘mother’ – this terminology is used very quickly and interchangeably which made me quite angry. Being a stepmother is NOT the same as being a mother, even if the mother isn’t around.
For women who are childfree by choice, this could be a frustrating book because it basically reinforces what they are frequently told – that they will change their mind.