Friday, February 21, 2020

Dorothy Koomson - Marshmallows for Breakfast

When Kendra Tamale returns to England from Australia she rents a room from Kyle, a divorced father of two, and begins a new job. She's looking forward to a fresh start and a simple life. Then she bumps into the man who shares her awful secret, and things fall apart. The only way to fix things is to confess to the terrible mistake she made.

Comment: This is the second book by the author I try. I liked the other one enough to try another despite the weaker aspects and, thankfully, this one had a heroine I found a lot easier to be sympathetic with and whom I rooted for.

In this book we meet Kendra Tamale, a woman who recently returned from Australia to work for a friend after some terrible situations she went through and that now she hopes to keep forgetting.
She rented a house and the first day of her return, the children of her landlord, six year old twins Summer and Jaxon, just show up in her house. That is the start of a new emotional journey for Kendra, especially since she looks at the twins and can't help liking them and helping their father any chance she gets. The problem is that Kendra has a secret, something that follows her anywhere she goes and unless she thinks of trysting someone, she won't ever be free enough to enjoy life to the fullest.

This is the second book by this author I try and I think I can, more or less, have an idea of what her style is and how her stories probably develop in general. It does seem her heroines are always women with something traumatic in their past, with more or less intensity in what happened, but always affecting them in a very permanent way, usually emotional and psychologically. I'd say the stories are at the most obvious spectrum of "woman's fiction".

Kendra, or Kenie as she is most often called, is a fascinating and complex character. In fact, she has some behaviors that are as frustrating to read about as it would be were she a real person, someone whose attitude and pace in  moving things along is very slow. People don't all react the same to the challenges, that is a given, but Kenie does seem to embody all of those who keep things to themselves, who don't feel like they should have many positive things, they don't feel right, they don't feel they are s worthy of the same things as other people. At the same time, she has an inner strength that compels her to go ahead with her life, to go through the motions and also to help two little kids and their parents somehow.

I liked this book mostly for Kenie's complexity. Something happened to her which she can't recuperate from and that is mixed with a man she left in Australia and with whom she couldn't just decide to be as part of a couple. These things in Kenie's past shaped her personality and as the plot moves along, we peel layers of her past and her feelings and the picture that comes out at the end of that of someone who survived, someone who coped.

I'd say then, the problem of this book (and in part of the other I had read too) is how excessively realistic things are. For a fictional story, even woman's fiction which generally allows for a lot more baggage in every character and how their path happens, this has a hopeful end, with some things in the air that can be understood as good but the romantic elements I kept hoping for were not there. They didn't have to be but there are hints and I did create that expectation. It seems, though, the author is not focusing on that - it might be there as just a side effect - but this means that, for me, the tone of the whole story is a little more depressed than it had to.
Nothing wrong with it, after all some themes/situations are naturally serious, but I still wish for a bit more positivism.

This is not a perfect story, I agree with readers who say there were too many sub themes to address and the fact it takes Kenie quite a while to process and overcome her issues makes the story a little slow.
I'd also say that, in technical terms, the flashbacks or scenes from the past or the thoughts of secondary characters through italic sections are annoying to me. I'd rather have those things inserted into the main text rather than apparent add-ons.

All in all, good elements, others not so good even though they are less in my scale, make this a god read, compelling but it could have been much better.
Grade: 7/10

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