Monday, September 17, 2007

The Accidental Mother

It was the title, The Accidental Mother, that grabbed me but the synopsis sealed the deal. The story of a career woman whose world is turned upside down when she becomes an instant mother is a plot that has been done to death in movies. Somehow it is always an engaging plotline. In this novel Rowan Coleman has flushed out the plot with very real and engaging characters and enough twists to keep me reading.

Sophie has managed her life brilliantly – she has a great career, is on the brink of a promotion, owns a meticulously decorated flat with her cat (Artemis) and has collected fabulous (and expensive) party dresses and shoes. She is extremely good at many things and has always said that “when she discovered her limitations she’d be happy to admit them.”

Bella and Izzy, her two accidental children, suddenly bring her biggest limitations into focus: primarily, her lack of emotional attachments – romantic or otherwise. Sophie lives a neat, self-contained physical and emotional life. She is about to receive a crash course in the messy world of human relationships.

The story chronicles Sophie’s journey as she assumes the temporary custody of Bella (6) and Izzy (3). The children are a strange mixture of insecure, brave, polite, bratty, withdrawn, boisterous, imaginative, tough and vulnerable. Coleman does a wonderful job of capturing the fragility and resilience of these two traumatized children. They are the real stars of this tale.

Sophie’s attempt to maintain her normal work life while struggling to share space with messy children, cook healthy kid-friendly meals and locate their father is sharply drawn. Her predictably fumbling attempts are funny even while you feel her bewilderment and anxiety! Possibly her best advice on how to cope comes from her own Mother in the form of a book: “Dr. Roberts Complete Dog Training and Care Manual.

The heart of the story is the deepening relationship between Sophie and the girls. Since her time as guardian is supposed to short, she tries to limit her connection to a serviceable and surface involvement. In a moment of desperation, however, Sophie draws upon her own experiences (the ones she has tried to bury) and begins to build a delicate bond of trust and a real relationship. When she realizes that she has actually fallen in love with Bella and Izzy no one is more surprised than she!

Yes, it is chick lit but more substantial than most and has important things to say about love, loss, responsibility and exploring one’s own limits. The end is predictable but the journey made me laugh and cry. Very enjoyable!

Here is the official stuff:

What do you do when you are a child's last hope?

From bestselling author Rowan Coleman comes a deeply touching tale of a fast-track career woman whoselife takes a sharp right turn when motherhood unexpectedly lands in her lap.

Sophie and Carrie were childhood best friends, but in the last few years they've lost touch. While Carrie chose motherhood in a small town, Sophie is powering up the London career track. She's a corporate manager poised for her next promotion. Sure, she doesn't have much time for men, but she has a great shoe collection and a cat who's never going to let her down.

And then Sophie is told that Carrie has died, with nobody left to care for her two daughters, Bella and Izzy, aged six and three. Their father, who left before Carrie's death, is nowhere to be found; their grandmother is moving into assisted living. Sophie once promised Carrie she would take care of her children if the worst ever happened...and now that day has come.

Witty, wise, and filled with genuinely powerful emotion, The Accidental Mother is the heartwarming, heartbreaking story of a woman who is woefully under-quipped to be suddenly thrown into motherhood, but who through the eyes of two little girls learns more about loss, commitment, and true love than she had ever realized existed.

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