What They Say: One ordinary morning, Norah walked out of her house on Willoughby Street and never looked back. Six years later, she returns to the home she walked away from only to find another woman in her place. Fay held Norah’s family together after she disappeared, she shares a bed with Norah’s husband and Norah’s youngest daughter calls Fay ‘Mummy’.
Now that Norah has returned, everyone has questions. Where has she been? Why did she leave? And why is she back? As each member of the family tries to find the answers they each need, they must also face up to the most pressing question of all – what happens to The Mother Who Stayed when The Mother Who Left comes back?
From the author of What Milo Saw, comes this powerful, emotional and perceptive novel about what it takes to hold a family together and what you’re willing to sacrifice for the ones you love.
The Review: First off thanks to Netgalley and Sphere publishers for the copy of this book in return for an honest review.
Let me start the review by saying that when I tweeted first about this book I accidentally called it ‘The astonishing return of Virginia MacGregor.’ This was obviously a slip up on my part but actually, quite apt, as it WAS astonishing that the person who gave us such a gem as ‘What Milo Saw’ (click for review) should give us a second book that was so different and yet equally as unputdownable! Oh and just to add, if some of this review, rings bells with any of you, it’s because I reviewed this book as part of the Bout of Books readathon a while ago,
It is about two mums ‘The Mum who left’ (Norah )and The Mum who stayed (Fay). The Mum who stayed is credited as having kept everything together when the mum who left walked out six years ago, but now the mum who left is back. The setting of ‘Astonishing Return of Norah Wells’ is 77 Willoughby Street, and we are transported there early on to meet the inhabitants, the husband, Adam, teenage daughter, Ella, and a child, Willa, who calls the mum who stayed ‘Mummy.’ The story is told from the viewpoint of the two mums, the husband and the two children, and looks at at the disruption and confusion caused by Norah’s return.
‘The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells’ makes us think about who the mother really is and thus started me thinking about for example the questions that arise as a result of surrogacy, adoption, fostering. Is a mother a mother because she gave birth to a baby or is it the person who raises the child? I loved that it wasn’t black and white, as life never is, and some of my prejudices towards one of the mothers were addressed, hence I learned something about both myself and my (sometimes biased) attitudes as a result of reading. Always a good thing.
I had a bit of a lull before the 50% mark, the pacing was a bit up and down for me but in general surprises were brilliant, and excellently done, and I would never have dreamed of putting it down. The telling of the story from an overseeing voice at times is magnificently done, I’m sure other authors, had they seen that it could have been done this way, could have tried to do it for the whole book, but I don’t think it would have worked, the different characters’ points of views put with this voice work gorgeously.
This book had it all, the tension, the surprises, I cried, I laughed, and at one point I laughed through tears, which a book has never caused me to do before. It was atmospheric, beautiful and had characters that were vivid and very, very real. The ending was unusual and unexpected, and I appreciated it. One thing to look out for is the relationship between little Willa and the dog, Louis. It’s a special one that will wow you.
This is one to put on the wishlist (unfortunately, at over £7 at time of posting this review, it’s a bit of an investment, though when you look at all the 99p books we buy without thinking, maybe some of these could be sacrificed?) Anyhoo, as I said before, hopefully this book will do really well and we’ll be seeing a lot more from Virginia MacGregor. Highly recommended.