M is for Mummy by Katy Cox
This is a novel that has the undeniable ring of authentic experience. Lucy is a woman who has had enough. She is a world class professional cellist, with experience of national and international events. She is also mother to the amazing (and wildly challenging) Stanley and baby Jack. Her husband Ed is a little obsessive about strange hobbies, but basically works hard as a musician to earn enough money to cope. Lucy has friends and other family, but somehow everything is a bit of struggle at the moment. Stanley is an extremely bright four year old who has memorised all the car numbers in the street, but who is also capable of meltdowns that take a lot of managing. Lucy would like to get her career back on some sort of track, cope with her children and get some romance from her husband, but all of it seems too much to manage at the moment.
This is a funny and searingly honest fictional account of surviving with a family that is different. Written very much in Lucy’s voice, this book is very funny in recalling the embarrassing and less than blissful elements of parenthood. She is a wonderful creation, rightly bewildered by Stanley’s ability to discuss complex information but also his obsessions with letters which will change to an eagerness to discover more about parts of the body. Shown as someone who is trying so hard to be an effective parent to a small child, Lucy is a brilliant, unintentional advocate for every parent who has struggled. Her relationship with Ed is realistic as he seems to be clueless about her desperation though he seems genuinely sympathetic and will cheerfully try to do what he is asked. Although mostly a stream of consciousness about her challenging present, Lucy recalls how she worked hard to succeed in becoming the musician she is, and could enjoy it if only she could find the help she so desperately needs. This is a contemporary story with so much to offer and real insight into complicated lives, and I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.
Another enjoyable element of this novel is Lucy’s two best friends, Charlie and Jen. They are without long term partners as the novel begins, and do not have children, so their lifestyles are very different from Lucy’s. Nevertheless they offer her support and where possible distraction; they listen to her problems and try to present at least partial solutions. They are unfailingly understanding, despite their different circumstances. Stanley is a marvellous creation, whose vocabulary is so advanced of his chronological age, but seems unable to register when to ask for what he wants and can get very stressed very quickly with disastrous results. Some readers may be spotting the basis of his behaviour, but what is never in doubt is Lucy’s commitment to his happiness which is much more than avoiding trouble. Ed seems so well meaning, and quietly pleased when he is able to achieve what he thinks is essential, earning money and helping with Stanley by playing with him at his level.
I really enjoyed this book. From the author’s details it seems that Kathy Cox has special insight into Lucy’s fictional troubles as well as being a highly successful musician in her own right. This is a vibrant and funny look at priorities when a parent tries to satisfy so many demands, as well as retain a sense of self and genuine achievement. I would recommend this book to those who are trying to walk that sort of tightrope, have memories of trying to do so, or just enjoy a very funny read of family life and trying to balance a career.