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A fatal car crash links Kat and Milo, two people who otherwise might never have met. After all, they live in different countries, and she's old enough to be his mother. He likes lifesaving classes and the banana muffins in his mother's café, while she lives off cigarettes and wine, and writes for a living. And yet now, because of the crash, they are linked. They don't realise it yet, but as time passes their lives will move closer. As secrets are unearthed, they will become bound to one another in different ways.
One of the most interesting things about this story is the change of voice. That in itself is not unusual, but it's the change from a 9 year old to a (non-related) adult and back again that makes it special. Milo is a fun, inquisitive little boy, but he is very young - at first I couldn't work out whether he was as young as he sounded, or whether he had a developmental problem, so perhaps if someone had told me from the start he was only 9, I might have read it differently. Kat is a more hardened character. She lives a more isolated life, with few friends, and ditches guys at the first sign of commitment. Her true self is a secret, hidden even from her parents, and while it might be a bit much to say she's living a lie, she's certainly not up front and honest about how she spends her days.
While this is Kat and Milo's story, there are lots of other characters who make up a lovely supporting cast. Faith is integral to the goings on, so while we never see things through her eyes, she is portrayed through Kat's and through Milo's. His brothers are more minor players, but when they crop up they're quite fun to be around, and his dad and Celia, not forgetting Damo too, all add something to the mix. From Kat's side we meet fewer people, quite simply because she has fewer meaningful types in her life, but Minnie and Ed in particular are worth getting to know. And I felt like I did get to know them, because they are fleshed out and have minds of their own, unlike the extras you often get in books.
If I had to pick out some negatives, I would say that perhaps the other link between Milo and Kat was a bit extraneous. Not the car crash, which was fine, but when other things emerge, it in places seems a bit too unlikely, a bit too over the top. Either story would have worked, but it felt like the two together was a bit much. I also thought too much happened at the end, and that some of this action could have been spread out earlier. That said, I really enjoyed the story, finding it well-paced and with lots of surprises to pull the plot off in different directions. The start was perhaps a little slow, and I found it easy to put down at that stage, but from about the midway point I was truly hooked and sped through it on a drive back from Wales as I couldn't stand the thought of waiting until bedtime.
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
Out now in paperback and on Kindle
"Kat Kavanagh is not in love. She has lots of friends, an ordinary job, and she never ever thinks about her past. This is Kat's story. None of it is true. Milo McIntyre loves his mam, the peanut-butter-and-banana muffins at the Funky Banana café, and the lifesaving class he does after school. He never thinks about his future, until the day it changes forever. This is Milo's story. All of it is true. And then there is the other story. The one with a twist of fate which somehow brings together a boy from Brighton and a woman in Dublin, and uncovers the truth once and for all. This is the story that's just about to begin . . ." (synopsis from Amazon.co.uk)
I really did enjoy this book, and more than I expected to. I found Ciara's last book, Finding Mr Flood to be a little hard-going at times and felt, to me anyway, a bit too long but I really wanted to give it a go, especially after I had read some early reviews online saying it was fantastic. I thought the cover was really unusual too, the burst of colour really cheering up an otherwise quite bland picture. Luckily, the book ended up being much more my cup of tea, and I really enjoyed the double narrator which I had slight reservations about, but in the end, it seemed to work perfectly for this book, and I was speeding my way through the pages, desperate to find out what was going to happen.
It's a very emotional and feeling-driven book, and this is where the narrator use comes in well. Milo, the young boy who narrates half of the book, is very honest and true in everything that he says, as most children are, and does not hold back on his emotions, his feelings and how situations make him feel. This makes it easy for an adult reader to understand him, but it is, as I say, very emotional especially when he's discussing his mother. Geraghty has tapped perfectly into the mind of this young boy, and it contrasts so well with the older, more mature narrator of Kat, who is suffering her own problems at this time. I did find that Milo made me less sympathetic to Kat, that he was going through more than her and she seemed selfish in comparison to me, but that is the clever thing with these narrators, they bounce off each other and evoke real feeling in the reader. Faith was another of my favourite characters, and I couldn't help but feel desperately sorry for this lost and bereft teenage girl who has been forced to grow up very quickly.
Geraghty's narrative descriptions for both characters are so incredibly vivid. From the café where Milo's mum worked, to the Irish landscape he and sister Faith see, even to his best friend Damo from school who we barely meet ourselves in the book - each of these are easy to imagine so clearly in your mind because Geraghty pays such attention to detail they almost jump out at you from the page. It is the same for the characters. Due to the fact you are in their heads for the duration of the book, you imagine them so clearly and almost experience things with them, from the good to the bad, and this adds to the emotion of the read. I also enjoyed how Geraghty slowly unwound the story as the book progressed, things become clearer as you progress and I found how she drew the threads of the separate stories very clever and I hadn't guessed the developments at all.
Lifesaving for Beginners is a very unusual read. It isn't often we find a child narrator in women's fiction, but it works so well in this book, simply due to the fact Geraghty writes Milo so beautifully. Everything comes together to become a very emotive story, and covers some tough topics - death, depression, adoption amongst others. In fact, one of my favourite parts of the book was involving Kat and her brother - it was fantastically written and you can feel Kat's frustration at people's reaction to her beloved brother come through so clearly. It isn't all sadness and tears though, there are parts that will have you smiling and laughing, and it's this that keeps you reading and keeps you hooked - you don't know where it's going to go next. Kat and Milo couldn't be more different, but the way they are drawn together is both shocking and suprising - you have to read this book to find out more about them, and why both characters had me enthralled. A really deep and emotional read, this one won't disappoint.
ISBN: 978-0340998113. Published by Hodder on 27th September 2012. Pages: 464. RRP: £6.99. Also available as an eBook.
Thank you for reading, and to the publishers for sending me a copy to review.
Having enjoyed Saving Grace and Finding Mr. Flood, also by this author, I was really looking forward to reading this book, and was not disappointed at all; I found this like putting on a comfortable pair of slippers and was drawn straight into the story. The book starts with a car crash which leaves the lives of two central characters, Milo a 9 year old boy and Kat a 30 something (just) writer changed forever. Milo's mum, Beth, is killed in the crash (this is not a spoiler as it's mentioned in the blurb for the book), whilst Kat finds herself both strangely ungrateful for having survived and pondering her relationship with Thomas her boyfriend and her past life. The path that they both follow will prove to be an interesting one that will lead them to places they hadn't imagined.
I don't want to say too much else about the plot as I think it would spoil the delicious journey of threads coming together that is this book; suffice to say that the story is filled with a plethora of characters you can both believe in and care about from the off. Though the plot could be depressing potentially, involving as it does the death of a mother of a young child and challenges faced by many of the characters, actually the story manages to be heart-warming whilst never being saccharin over-sweet. There are some genuinely funny and touching moments in this tale which is a light but intelligent read.
I thought the author did particularly well portraying a 9 year old boy, always a difficult age group for writing realistic dialogue for I think, but convincingly done here. The author captures what it is like to be part of a family with secrets and their little quirks and habits well and it was easy to believe in the world she portrayed. I quite liked the fact that the narrative switched between characters, the plot was well paced and kept my interest until the end, leaving me wanting more. This book is both well written and easy to follow despite the twists and turns of the plot, and came to a satisfying conclusion.
This book is a very enjoyable read - it's a real page turner that I devoured in very few sittings. I can see how the author could be compared to Marian Keyes with the Irish family theme, however I think that with her latest book Geraghty has written a confident and interesting book that is her very own and I, for one, will be looking out for more titles from her.
This book is currently priced at £5.23 from Amazon, I received a review copy as part of the Vine programme