This book takes a look at the lives of four women who are all on the road to becoming stepmothers, and the emotional struggles and heartbreak that can arise from taking on a man who already has children. It deals with many emotional issues that are faced by women today in a very sympathetic way, and the females are all portrayed as likeable characters, even when their behaviour is less than perfect.
However, because it is written from the females perspective the men come off much less favourably, with some of them being portrayed as selfish and uncaring. For me the least likeable male character was Ian, who behaves dispicably when Eve announces to him that she is pregnant with his child. This is only the final act in a long list of very selfish behaviours that he displays and frankly I can't see why Eve would take him back after this. I would have liked some of the book to have been from the male characters' perspective so that there is a bit more insight into why they behaved in the way that they did.
I very much enjoyed The Stepmothers' Support Group but I would have preferred a less rushed ending. It felt slightly as though the author wanted to just quickly tie up any loose ends and ensure a happy ending for all of the characters. Overall, it is a novel that is touching and sympathetic and it will make you take a look at your own life and relationships. Definitely worth a read!
The Stepmothers' support group follows the life of five women who are all related in some way to being a step mum. It has a relatively simple plot and I found it very easy to read.
Eve is the main character and she has just met a man called Ian who comes with three children from a previous marriage. Ian is the love of her life, but the problems come when she has to meet the children and fit in with their life.
The support group was formed almost by accident by Eve and her friend Claire. Claire feels that Eve needs to meet her sister, Lily who is in almost the same situation as Eve and maybe they can take some advice from each other. The group grows, adding more members and therefore the story grows too, in explaining each member's situation.
Even though I don't have any experience at all with step mothers, I found that it was a book I could relate to. It shows many different situations including being a single mother to loving the other half's child, but not loving the other half. The story really tackles issues that a step mother might face such as the older child's territory within the house and when you get asked to move in, fitting your stuff into the house without ruining the surroundings for the children. There is also one part where the mother of the child and the child move away from the father, and the step mum has to deal with split loyalties - the father wants to be near his child but that means moving away from the one he loves.
The story starts off with Eve's point of view and it follows her experiences of meeting the children, meeting the parents and the troubles she faces fitting in with their lives. The other members of the group look to her for advice and the story stats comparing the other member's experiences with the ones that Eve has already had.
Towards the end of the book the focus falls off Eve because her problems are pretty much sorted out. It then shifts focus onto Mel, Claire and Lily who all have problems of their own to focus on.
The thing that struck me about this book was that it was all about ordinary women. There was no one who was rich and famous, and Claire is a single mum trying to bring up a teenager on one income. This made it even more believable because their problems are not out of the ordinary. Everyone who reads this will have something they can relate to.
It really emphasises the fact that all women have a dream of a happy marriage with their own children and that being a step mum is for when life goes wrong. But in this book it's not necessarily the case, it's just how life works out. There is a stereo type that all step mums are normally older women and horrible witches, but again this book proves this is wrong. Lily is almost a step mum and she is only 23.
There are five members of the support group, but the fifth one, Mandy, doesn't really have much of a part to play and I am not quite sure why she is there. She joins at the end and her situation is that her teenage kids have combined with her new partner's teenage kids and it's not a good situation. There doesn't seem to be much focus on her throughout the story and towards the end she decides to move away from the area and leaves the story altogether.
I did feel that too many aspects of being step mother had been included in the book and this is shown towards the end when Lou meets her new family and therefore has a new step mum. Claire, Lou's mum, seems to be the odd one out as well because she is not a step mother, but she had a step mother as a child.
Sam Baker, the author of the book and editor in chief of popular woman's magazine Red, states at the end of the book that she asked several people their view on being a step mother and obviously got great results from it. But it feels that she was trying to squeeze too many elements of her investigation into the story rather than just focusing on a few of the most important ones.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down. There were lots of twists and turns that made it very exciting, although I did find that some parts were a bit predictable. But I would certainly recommend it and it would make a perfect summer read.
I first spotted The Stepmothers' Support Group in Hardback last year and really liked the sound of it, but I'm not really a fan of hardbacks as they are not very good for bath or bed reading, which seems to be the only place I get to read these days. So I eventually picked it up a couple of months ago as part of my normal supermarket 2 for £7 book buying routine - however there has been so many good chick lit releases recently that this one got bumped down a bit by my favourite authors, so I have only just got to it!
The main character in the book is Eve, a journalist who has entered into a relationship with a widower Ian, who has 3 children with the glamorous Caro. The book begins with Eve as she prepares to meet Ian's children for the first time. When the first meeting doesn't exactly go to plan, Eve's best friend Clare a single mum who she met while at university, suggests she meet with her sister Lily who is dating a man with a child from a previous relationship so they can swap notes.
On the way they pick up Mel, a fashion designer who has yet to meet her partner's child, and Mandy, an experienced stepmother, and the club is born. Over coffee and chat friendships are forged, and we soon learn that life's complications run deeper than just stepchildren. As they all work to forge new futures, ghosts from the past begin to cause complications that none of them could have predicted.
I found this book was impossible to put down. The third person narrative meant that you got good descriptions of all the characters, and although Eve was the main character, the story line involved all the other women and I felt you got to know them all. I really liked Claire who was prickly but feisty, and Mel who was successful but insecure. The chapters in the book were a nice length too - normally between 10 - 12 pages, so excellent if you just grab the chance to read when you can like me! I got through this in two nights reading, although it was a struggle not to stay up all night reading!
The book is really well written, and I found myself fully submerged in the life of the women. I really liked the stark honesty of the book, and it highlighted the joys as well as the lows of taking on someone else's children, as well as the fact that relationships with biological children can be just as hard going at times. There were parts of the book that had me really choked up too - I felt like I had been on a real emotional rollercoaster when I finished!!
I had not read anything by Sam Baker before, but she has written two previous novels which I will look out for. She is also the editor in chief for Red magazine, which is where she got the idea for this novel from. As a stepmother herself, she mentioned this fact in her editors letter, and found she was inundated with requests for advice on the subject. However you do not need to be a stepmother to enjoy this book - I'm not, and the American release of this book has been re-titled as The Other Mothers' Club so not to alienate non stepmothers! I tend to prefer chick-lit about family, friendships and relationships which are the key themes of this book, hence why I loved it!!
The cover to the book is different to the pictured (which is from the hardback version) - Mine is yellow and has a picture of a hallway with various sized wellington boots lines up along it. This picture actually has some significance to the storyline, so I think it is a much better cover. This book is available for £5.09 delivered new from Amazon, or £2.76 from Amazon Marketplace.
Published by Harper Books. 408 pages.
Eve has never imagined herself as a Step-mother, but that's exactly what she becomes when she falls in love with widow Ian. He comes complete with 3 children, and it's Eve's worst nightmare... not to mention the fact that the ghost of his wife is hanging over Eve's every move. Her best friend Clare is having problems of her own with her teenage daughter Lou, but she still wants to be there for Clare. Lily is Clare's younger sister and also in love with someone who has a child, but Lily isn't too afraid of being a step-mother. The 3 women need each other and decide to set up The Step-Mothers Support Group, and recruit a few other mothers for coffee, chat and friendship. But when things all come crashing down around them, can the step-mothers overcome the past as well as their uncertain futures?
This novel is the third for author Sam Baker, who is also the editor of "Red" magazine. The novel is based around female friendships, and how women adapt to looking after someone else's children as a step-parent, a job I don't at all envy! The book has a gorgeous pink and red themed cover and is definitely one that will stand out on your bookshelf. However, I don't think the cover gives away enough about how good a book this is, and it certainly isn't all that light and fluffy like the cover image might lead you to believe. Don't let the girlie cover of this book put you off - it's a meaty read, and very enjoyable too.
The main character of the book is Eve. She's a career girl, working hard in her job on a magazine, and in love with Ian. The only problem is that he comes with his 3 children by dead wife Caro, and Eve isn't at all sure of herself with children. We join the book when Ian is introducing Eve to his children for the first time, and it was very cringing in parts! I think Baker has done a great job in describing the situation perfectly and getting on paper the emotions of both the adults and children in the scenario. Just from this opening scene, I knew the rest of the book was going to match up and be a riveting read. The other characters include her best friend Clare, step mums Melanie and Mandy, and Clare's sister Lily - each of them were real women and you can imagine them being your friend and walking down the street, and this is what made the book so enjoyable for me.
What I really loved about this book is that it showed both the negatives and positives of the different relationships throughout. It shows how awkward a step-parent/child bond can be and how children don't necessarily accept the adults in their life even when you desperately want them to. Baker really captures the emotion of the children in the book, feeling pushed out, disliking their parent moving on and dislike of the new adult in their life. You can see the relationships change as the book goes on, and it was very realistic and I enjoyed it.
The adult relationships were written well too. Eve and Ian's partnership was a very good read and realistic too. It was clear that they were different people who loved each other, but had different ideas about family life. Eve and Clare's relationship was the other main one in the book, and was very touching as it is a friendship from childhood that withstands anything - you just wish you had one of your own like this when you read the book! I really enjoyed the way the realism of it - Eve and Clare fought, didn't speak to each other, just like in real life and Baker really gets into the head of these women.
I think these days this book is more relevant than ever because there seem to be a lot of "blended families" around, and of course they don't all work out as you want them to. Sam Baker's writing is what made this book so enjoyable for me, it was such an easy read and the writing style was so readable, you couldn't put the book down and I was just desperate to find out how things were going to work out for Eve and Clare. The book details the good, the bad and the ugly but there is a lot of happiness in this book too. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and loved every page. When I finished it, I felt like I had lost a group of friends because the book is so involving and I was truly gutted to turn the last page. An excellent read, and very highly recommended - one of my top reads of 2009 without a doubt.
ISBN: 978-0007302543. Published by Harper Collins in August 2009. The hardback has 416 pages and has an RRP of £12.99.
Thanks to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for my blog, http://chicklitreviews.com.
Thanks for reading!