A Moment on the Lips by J Taylor – Female friendships and mutal support in a funny book of changing lives.

A Moment on the Lips by J. Taylor

From the title it is possible to guess that this book is about eating. Actually, it is a wonderful contemporary novel of female friendship,mutual support and humour. Vibrant characters, very funny dialogue and lively situations are skilfully created through this book. Alongside is a clever account of the pressures placed on women in today’s society, to fulfil a false idea of slim perfection in order to meet with male approval. Some men are seen as supportive, while others are implicitly criticised for their lack of understanding. It is written from the point of view of Etta Wilson, and her voice is truthful with great insights into her situation and her ability to cope with her friends’ situations. This novel is a great achievement in terms of how a group of female friends get together and support each other in all the challenges and potentially embarrassing situations that they can get into, as well as celebrating the good times and the achievements. With honesty about difficult relationships, Etta’s account of her changing life is about far more than losing weight, but about seeing herself in a new and dynamic way. It is an enjoyable and entertaining read, and one that I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review. 

At the beginning of the book, Etta is a binge eater, lonely and dissatisfied with her life. She has had a non relationship with Robert, who has taken her money and self confidence while showing absolutely no interest in their daughter Chloe. Etta has the support of her grandfather and his second wife, Pam, whose social ambition and outrageous clothing choices do not hide her genuine attachment to Etta and Chloe. Nevertheless, Etta is painfully aware of her difficult situation when she sees Robert with a slim woman in contrast with her own overweight body. When one of her coworkers at Elm Lodge Care home asks for help in dealing with her sudden abandonment by her husband of many years, Etta is drawn into a newly established WhatsApp group of the women who share in the difficulties. This includes Yana, newly arrived from Russia and so willing to ask the difficult questions, Val, who feels alone after Tim has left, and divorced Nicky who has unresolved issues with her ex husband. Jenna is about to get married to Jason, and has energy for many activities, and when Etta admits to a meltdown over seeing Robert they resolve to meet in person. When they get together they realise that they share issues with their weight for their own self esteem, health and happiness. As well as helping Val with her quest to discover the truth about her husband, they resolve to lose weight with the support of the others. Not that it is to be competitive, or demanding, but represent positive choices about restricting calories in a sensible way and taking more exercise. As they work together they can take turns to provide healthy lunches for the group, as well as provide mutual support in the face of challenges beyond losing weight. In the background are the funny antics of the care home residents, such as demanding the old menu back and serially losing the remote control. Etta reveals that her mother has been a largely absent figure in her life, though admits that her latest appearance is a surprise. 

I enjoyed the ever present theme of humour in this book, even when some of the characters face difficult choices and challenges. It is strong on female friendship and support far beyond the losing weight theme, and I recommend it as a thoughtful, optimistic read.