Sunday, 22 November 2015

KEEPING SAM by Joanne Phillips

4 out of 5 stars

Contemporary family drama

On Amazon UK HERE

This novel is an interesting move sideways for Joanne Phillips, who has previously been known for her light romances and cosy mysteries. Keeping Sam is an emotionally complex drama that I am sure will appeal to readers who have a preference for stories about modern day family issues.  One point I'd like to make straight away is that there is no bad language, sex or violence in this book; I know this is important to some people when making reading choices.

Following a break in and a knock on the head, single mother Kate has been in a coma for a year.  When she wakes up, she is eager to fetch her toddler son, Sam, from her parents' house.  However, she reckons without the relationship her mother, Barbara, has built up with Sam while Kate was asleep.  Kate must cope not only with her own physical difficulties, but also with the general opinion that she is not yet ready to be a full time mother to her son.  Her frustration and the feeling that there is some sort of conspiracy against her is extremely well plotted, with slightly sinister undertones that I liked very much.

As the story progresses, the strains of tension between Kate and her parents are artfully revealed.  Barbara is a most interesting character, resentful, lonely, frightened of the future; she is essentially an unlikable character, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for her because of the dull emptiness of her life, which made me want to run a mile, should I ever have to live anything like it!  Enter stage left, Kate's ex and Sam's father, the feckless Evan, who has his own agenda.

A little of the author's tendency towards the more lighthearted is introduced in the form of the delightful Marie, Kate's landlady, and her tumultuous relationship with the love of her life, Big Tony.  This is a well told and unusual story, incorporating a little mystery, too, and fans of Joanne Phillips (of which there are many) will be pleased to know that she's also added in a nice touch of romantic interest!  A most enjoyable read with that all important satisfying ending.

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