While I was writing a summer reading feature for my author website, it occurred to me that some of the books I was recommending had a strong parenting angle. Whether the families in these novels were doing well or badly, it’s interesting to see how characters react to certain situations like sibling rivalry, loss of a parent, depression, abuse, teenage pregnancy and how they interact with other family members and their friendship groups.
Often it’s easier to get messages across in fiction rather than non-fiction. Rarely is fiction judgemental (in that the author is not judging the reader) but in some non-fiction tomes it’s easy to feel “got at” if you’re not parenting in the way prescribed even if that was not the author’s intention.
So here are a few books that might ring true for your own particular circumstances – and if not they are jolly good reads.
Emma Healey explores the relationship between a well-meaning mother and her severely depressed daughter in her second novel Whistle in the Dark, (Viking Books). Lana is 15 and goes missing while she and Jen are on a painting holiday. When Lana returns, bruised and injured, she remembers nothing but Jen is determined to find out what happened. This is a brilliant exploration of the mother/daughter relationship at a pivotal moment in their lives, particularly relevant as our society realises we must to more to improve mental health.
Whistle in the Dark: From the bestselling author of Elizabeth is Missing is available from Amazon and bookshops.
When Helen is widowed suddenly in The Kindness of Strangers by Julie Newman (Urbane Publications) she discovers her whole life with her husband was built on deception. The grief of her childlessness drives her to befriend a pregnant teen who has been thrown out of home by her own mother, and a man rejected by his family, having returned from army duties with PTSD. The ending may surprise you and is not recommended as a solution!
The Kindness of Strangers is available from Amazon and bookshops.
Blended families, sibling rivalry and the fall out from abuse make Maria in the Moon by Louise Voss (Orenda Books) a compulsive read. Catherine is just into her thirties and a victim of the floods in Hull. Her present is in pieces but the key to resolution is hidden in the past – the year she turned nine and can remember nothing. Louise Voss interweaves the devastating effects of the floods on people’s lives into a story in which step-sisters vie for attention and family secrets are buried deep into a wonderful narrative which captivates the reader.
Maria In The Moon is available from Amazon and bookshops.
An historical crime novel set in the 17th century might not on first sight seem pertinent to 21st century parenting. However the trauma associated with the loss of a parent dealt with by Lesley Lodge in Wayland’s Revenge (Matador) transcends time. Wayland has been away fighting in the Civil War and returns to find his wife has been brutally murdered and his son has been literally struck dumb by the horror of losing his mother in such a way. Father and son gradually rebuild their relationship as they embark on a journey or revenge.
Wayland's Revenge is available from Amazon and bookshops.
Totally contemporary and utterly compelling in theme is Angelena Boden’s The Future Can’t Wait (Urbane Publications). Here we are faced with a mother, Kendra, losing her daughter, Rani a student who is half-Iranian, when she has an identity crisis and cuts off all contact with family and friends. The lengths Kendra goes to – despite advice from her second husband, son and close friends – to try to understand and ultimately find her daughter as she descends into a madness of grief resonate on so many levels.
The Future Can't Wait is available from Amazon and bookshops.
Songs of Innocence (Hannah Weybridge) by Anne Coates is available from Amazon and bookshops.