Today is the launch day of Kate Long‘s Bad Mothers United, a long awaited sequel to her first novel, The Bad Mother’s Handbook. I was so excited to catch up with Charlotte and Karen and of course with dear old, Nan – who has now passed away but still teaches Karen from beyond the grave.
This is what Kate Long has to say about Bad Mothers United:
It’s the dawn of the New Millennium and the Coopers are back, chaotic as ever. Thirtysomething Karen’s attempting to bring up her toddler grandson on behalf of a daughter who’s away at university, as well as holding down her teaching job and trying to maintain some sense of herself. But there’s trouble on so many fronts. When she isn’t being pursued by her maddening ex, she’s haunted by the ghost of her mother who seems to have some important message she wants to pass on. Her head’s a jumble and no one’s listening to her. That is, until a handsome new neighbour moves in next door. Might he be the solution to at least some of her woes?
Meanwhile daughter Charlotte’s got problems of her own. How can she keep on juggling motherhood with student life? What’s gone wrong between her and her boyfriend Daniel? Who exactly does her libertine landlord think he is? Why is her mum unravelling before her eyes?
Then, out of the blue, a mysterious card from the darkest reaches of the past turns the family upside down, and sends Charlotte off on the riskiest journey of her life.
So, whether you read the Bad Mother’s Handbook – or saw it dramatised on television for that matter with none other than Catherine Tate as Karen – or not, it doesn’t matter. You should read this book if you like a story that is well written, sharp, funny, poignant, touching and real. Kate Long does what she does best, and that’s to write about family relationships. She writes about the minutiae of daily life – the toilet training incidents, growing older, juggling, spiders – and through these we see the universal themes of love, loss, memory, regret, hopes and dreams – themes that run throughout Long’s novels. And here, with characters we love so much, these themes resonate more than ever in our own lives.
Fiction may not be true but it should show us a certain truth. And Kate Long is as truthful as writers get. She paints an honest portrayal of a working class family who struggle along the road of life, strong characters who must negotiate the tricky, uncertain path of motherhood, set against a backdrop of relentless Lancashire rain (which I can vouch for having been a student at Lancaster University). Small town life it may be, but this story is universal in its reach and appeal.
Told in first person narration from the three generations of women, I was engaged from start to finish with their lively distinct, voices. I loved the Lancashire dialect and turns of phrase which took me back to my days ‘upcountry’ – as we call it down here in Devon. It is these voices that draw the reader in and keep them hooked. We care so much about them that we feel their ups and downs, their embarrassments and anger, their exasperation and determination.
I also really like the male characters of Steve and Daniel – both fully-rounded and believable men I enjoyed hanging out with.
So I throughly recommend you read this book. In fact, any of Kate’s books. You’ll enter fictional worlds that are all too familiar but quite extraordinary. Bad Mothers United is a belter, as Nan might say.