This is Me - Shari Low
Reading Challenge Category: Free ARC from NetGalley
This is... Denise. Married to Ray, her first and only love, Denise has never for one moment regretted putting the husband she idolised on a pedestal above everyone and everything else. But, after forty years of marriage, he is gone, leaving Denise to discover that their perfect marriage was fatally flawed. Now she faces a future alone, but first she must face the betrayals of the past. This is... Claire. The estranged daughter of Denise, the woman who put her husband before her children, Claire took the opposite path and devoted her life to raising her her family, sacrificing her marriage along the way. With her teenage sons about to flee the nest, she realises she may have left it too late to find her own happy ever after. This is the story of two women, both alone, both cautionary tales of one of motherhood's biggest decisions. Who is more important, your partner or your children? And what happens if you make the wrong choice?
I really like the question in the blurb “Who is more important, your partner or your children?” I don’t have kids, but I can imagine it must be a tough balance to find. This book is about two women that take that question and run with it in opposite directions. One puts her kids above her own and her husband’s happiness. The other neglects her children in favour of being the perfect wife to her husband and ensuring all of his needs are met. It is almost as if four stories are running parallel in this book. We have alternating chapters of Denise in the present day, then Denise’s past. We then have Claire in the present day and then a chapter on her past. I’m not sure this method of storytelling worked that well for this book. I don’t usually mind a backwards and forwards book nor one that follows multiple characters. However, the way this book was set out made it really hard to get into, and by the time you’d done a loop and were back say with Claire in the present, you’d read three chapters, and you’d forgotten what Claire was currently up to. It was Claire’s story I struggled with the most as hers wasn’t as heartbreaking nor as fascinating. So I’d find myself currently back in the present with Claire thinking how did I last leave her, oh yes she makes wedding dresses, and she’s in her shop with her friends. Due to the large gaps between each story (I saw it as four stories), it didn’t feel like the book was progressing. Nothing was really happening; the only story that had purpose were the ones in the past. I knew this was a book of parallel stories, but I wasn’t expecting the reminiscing sections as well. As the book went on, and we got to know the characters a little better, I found myself rushing through Claire’s section to get back to Denise’s. Her past was much more interesting plus we knew she was going through heartache right from the beginning of the book, so she was a little easier to relate to. Her story was still shocking, and she wasn’t the nicest of people to sympathise with. I’ve enjoyed all of the Shari Low books that I have read so far, but I found this one really hard to get to grips with, and it took me until at least 50% in to feel like I was invested in the book. It still got me in the feels as all of her books have due to her style of writing, but I just didn’t feel like it went anywhere or made me glad I’d invested my time in it. If I hadn’t been reviewing it for NetGalley, I probably would have abandoned it around 30% of the way in! It was just too slow-going for my liking.