The Bad Mother’s Handbook by Kate Long

This is the story of three generations of one family.  Charlotte Cooper is 17, about to do her A levels, and suddenly discovers she’s pregnant.  Her mother Karen is furious with her, not least because she had Charlotte at the age of 16, and has always tried to stop her daughter making the same “mistakes” that she did.  But it’s not long before Karen finds something out which makes her question her role in her family and wonder whether there isn’t a better life waiting for her somewhere.  Meanwhile, Karen’s mother, Nancy Hesketh, who lives with them, is slowly succumbing to dementia, which is causing all sorts of chaos.  But when she’s not posting her grandaughter’s homework in the toaster, or hiding letters under the sofa, she reminisces silently about her life.

This is a very enjoyable and undemanding read.  The multiple narrators (Charlotte, Karen and ‘Nan’) ensure that we see events from each point of view – although Nan’s contributions are generally short and relate to the past rather than the present situation.  The main body of the story is told through Karen and Charlotte’s narration.

All of the three main characters are believeable.  The constant locking of horns between Charlotte and her mother will also have many teenagers and parents of teenagers nodding in recognition!  The story is touchingly told, and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as well.

My only niggle with this book was the ending seemed rushed, almost as if the author had said what she wanted to say and just wanted to end the book quickly, and a few smaller aspects of the story did not seem completely resolved.  But overall, this is a good book – probably aimed more at the female market – and one which I enjoyed a lot more than I expected to.

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