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Another Mother's Life

Another Mother's Life

4.0 12
by Rowan Coleman

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Can you ever mend a shattered friendship?

From Rowan Coleman, author of the acclaimed bestseller The Accidental Mother, comes a deeply moving novel for every woman who was ever a teenager in love, a mother, or made a heartbreaking decision.

For wealthy Alison James, moving with her family to her


Can you ever mend a shattered friendship?

From Rowan Coleman, author of the acclaimed bestseller The Accidental Mother, comes a deeply moving novel for every woman who was ever a teenager in love, a mother, or made a heartbreaking decision.

For wealthy Alison James, moving with her family to her hometown of Farmington presents more than a case of relocation jitters. Fifteen years ago, she fled town, eloping with her best friend's boyfriend. Now, blessed with three children, but uneasy in her marriage, she wonders if that decision led her away from the life she was meant to lead.

Catherine Ashley, broke, the mother of two and almost divorced, can't help but wonder the same thing. Although she's content with her children, she finds herself returning again and again to those few weeks fifteen years ago when she fell deeply in love, only to be betrayed by her most trusted friend.

Now, once more living in the same town, Alison and Catherine are about to find out just how different their lives could still be. But this time around they are adults, and while their own happiness is at stake, so is their children's.

Wise and warmhearted, Another Mother's Life will make you laugh and cry -- and think about what you would do when confronted by some of life's most difficult choices.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Coleman explores in her underwhelming second novel (after The Accidental Mother) the long-term repercussions of rash, romantic and destructive decisions made in mercurial youth. Growing up, outgoing, attractive Alison James and introverted beauty-who-doesn't-know-it Catherine Ashley were inseparable in the way that only teenage girls can be. That is, until 17-year-old Alison, in a moment of youthful passion, runs off with Catherine's boyfriend, Marc, leaving an emotionally scarred Catherine and a bad reputation in her wake. Sixteen years later, Alison and Marc-now married-move back to the girls' hometown, forcing Alison and Catherine to finally confront their pasts and one other. The book's concept is promising, but clunky dialogue detracts, and the many passages of introspection grow tiresome, repetitive and melodramatic. It's like listening to a romantically inept friend recount the latest relationship woes: it's amusing enough, but after a while you'd like to change the subject. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Alison James found that her feet could not move.

"Good-bye fireplace, good-bye window, good-bye spider's web, good-bye doorknob..." Alison listened to her five-year-old daughter's litany of farewells and she knew that her husband would be in the car, his forefinger drumming against the steering wheel impatiently as he waited for her and Amy to come out and join the rest of the family on their trip to their new home, their new life. The moving van had left almost half an hour ago and Alison knew that Marc was horrified at the thought of his widescreen TV languishing on the damp front lawn while the movers waited for someone to let them in. What he didn't know was that despite all that had happened here, for two of the family, at least, it was hard to say good-bye.

The horn sounded from outside, three long bursts that made Amy jump in her skin.

"Come on then, sweetheart," Alison said, picking up her daughter's hand. "It's time to go to our new home, it will be very exciting, won't it? A proper adventure."

Amy looked up at her mummy.

"But I haven't said good-bye stairs, good-bye loo, good-bye airing cupboard, good-bye..."

"How about you just say one big good-bye to the whole house?" Alison prompted, even though she would be perfectly happy to wait while Amy bid farewell to every brick and board. She knew exactly how her daughter felt about leaving their London home because she was just as reluctant to leave it, particularly considering where they were moving to. Everyone else thought they were starting afresh, beginning a new life and turning a clean page. Only Alison seemed to understand that they were traveling back into the past, specifically her past.

But the decision had been made and now it was impossible to turn back.

"Is Farmington nice, Mama?" Amy asked, closing her fingers tightly around Alison's. Alison felt an echoing clench of anxiety in her gut.

"Yes, darling, it's lovely. It's the place where Mummy grew up, remember? And the town where Granny and Grandpa live is only a few miles away. When they get back from their trip we'll see them all the time. Besides, Farmington has lots more room to play and not so much pollution. And the school will be great. You'll love it. Just think of all the new friends you'll make."

Alison looked down at Amy's small, quiet face. She could only guess at how terrifying this move must seem to the five-year-old.

What her husband didn't seem to be able to understand was that going home was nearly as terrifying for her.

"Good-bye house," Amy said on a heavy sigh. "Be happy with your new family."

Then, finally, Alison forced her leaden feet to move and, leading Amy by the hand, she shut the door on her old life forever.

"Get a move on, love." Marc leaned out of the car window. "I'd like to get us all in before dark!"

Once in the car, Alison looked in the rearview mirror. Fifteen-year-old Dominic was slumped in the very rear, his arms crossed, his woollen hat pulled down over his brows so his black hair fanned into his eyes, his beloved electric guitar in its case on the seat next to him. He was plugged into his iPod with his eyes closed, shutting the world out, displaying his disapproval at what was happening with a silent if not peaceful protest. Her middle child, eight-year-old Gemma, was staring happily out the window, her legs drumming in anticipation of a new adventure, a new world to conquer and hundreds of new friends to make -- possibly the only one in the whole family who was truly looking toward the future.

Only Amy, who had the flats of her palms pressed against the car window, kept looking back. Only Amy was still saying her good-byes even as they turned the corner and their old street was out of sight for good. Only Amy, who brushed away a tear, then put her thumb in her mouth and clung to her toy for dear life, seemed aware of exactly what they had left behind.

Only Amy and Alison, that is.

"Come on Alison, it's perfect, admit it." Marc had pressed her only six weeks earlier when he'd come home and told her he thought they should put the house on the market because he'd found them the perfect place to move to.

Alison had half looked at the details of the new house he had thrust under her nose the minute after he'd walked in the door. That was Marc. He was an all-or-nothing kind of man; things had to be done right away or not at all, and this, it seemed, was one of them. He had made a mistake and now he was taking decisive action to fix it, decisive and drastic. The house in the photo was certainly much bigger than their current house, set in some grounds at the end of what looked like a long driveway.

"There's no way we can afford a house like this near enough for you to be able to commute, and if you think that I'm going to be stuck out in the country while you're in town all week, then..."

"That's not it at all, Al," he said. "I've been thinking and, well, the dealership in Notting Hill runs itself more or less, it's established. There's no challenge for me there anymore and I think we all need a change, a proper fresh start for all of us." Alison looked at him and waited for the hard sell. Marc picked up her hand as he sat down next to her. "You need a change of scenery after everything that went on at Christmas, not to mention what's been going on with Dom. That's twice now he's been brought home by a policeman, Alison. He's been warned for riding in a stolen car. What will happen next? Will we find a knife in his school bag or have the next policeman turn up on our doorstep to tell us our son's been shot for looking at some kid the wrong way? You don't want that life for him, do you, Al? This is the perfect solution, and look at where the house is."

Alison had stopped looking at her husband the moment he mentioned Christmas. Only Marc could refer to something so painful and humiliating in passing, as if what had happened was merely an inconvenience that a good holiday could sort out. But when she looked at the address of the house, all thoughts of Christmas disappeared.

"This house is in Farmington," she said slowly, feeling suddenly chilled to the core. "We're not moving to Farmington."

"Why not Farmington?" Marc asked her. "We'll be much closer to your parents, once they get back from their grand tour. They only live a few miles away from Farmington and you know how much you'd like to be nearer your mum, especially now that you two get on so much better. You're the only one of us with any family, and I happen to think we should make the most of that, for your sake and the kids'. You spent too long separated from your family; this is a chance, maybe a last chance, for you to make up for those years." Marc paused, holding Alison's gaze. He sounded so persuasive, so rational. As if he wasn't asking her to go back to the place where her life had changed course forever, as if she was the mad one for not wanting to go back.

"Besides, you grew up there," Marc carried on. "It's the perfect place to bring the kids up, it's surrounded by countryside, it's got good schools and low crime rates...and look at what we'd get for our money over there compared to this place. So, why not Farmington?"

"You know why not Farmington," Alison said, redirecting her gaze at him. "Marc, you're incredible, you really are."

Marc stared at her wide-eyed for a moment or two as she waited for him to catch up.

"What? You mean because of...? Oh, Al, don't be silly. That's all in the past now, long gone and forgotten. Nobody cares about that anymore, not even your parents!"

"I care!" Alison told him, fighting to temper her tone because the girls were in the next room and Dominic would be home soon. "Would you move back to Birmingham, to the place where your foster mother told you she didn't want you living with her anymore and that she was putting you back in a children's home?"

Marc removed his hand from hers and she felt the chill of its departure.

"I wouldn't move back to Birmingham because it's a shithole," he said, reacting angrily as he always did when Alison mentioned his childhood. "It's not the same and you know it. I got dragged up through foster care and children's homes, kicked about from pillar to post. You had everything you ever wanted. A nice safe life, in a nice safe town, with nice safe parents. Is it so wrong that I want to give that life to my children, and especially to Dom, before he messes up his life for good?"

"You don't give him enough credit," Alison protested. "If you could have seen him in the school show, you would have seen how talented he is. Maybe if you talked to him every now and again -- "

"I have talked to him," Marc interrupted her impatiently. "I talked to him for hours after the car incident. I don't know, I look at him and I see myself, Al. The boy needs straightening out. I think living in Farmington could be the answer."

"Look, if you want to move from here then fine. I'm not thrilled to live here anymore either. But we don't have to go to Farmington. That is the last place we should have to go," Alison told him bleakly. "The night I left there with you I knew I was never going back, I never could go back."

"Who cares now about what happened back then? It was an age ago, Alison, it doesn't mean anything now."

"Not to you?"

"Of course not to me!" Marc exclaimed. "Al, the last couple of months have been hard on you, you're not thinking straight. If you were you'd see how perfect this is."

"Even so" -- Alison looked up wearily at Marc -- "it doesn't have to be Farmington. There are a hundred towns like Farmington, two hundred -- a thousand even. Any one of those would give the children the kind of life you want them to have, but not this one, Marc. It doesn't have to be Farmington. Mum and Dad don't even live there anymore!"

Marc bowed his head, his hands folded in his lap as they sat side by side on the sofa. "When I came to Farmington I was a railway laborer," he said, beginning the story she already knew so well. "Working nights repairing the lines, sleeping all day in the park, drinking warm beer in the sun waiting for some girls to walk by, hoping they'd give me a second glance. I was twenty years old and I was already dead, my life was going nowhere. I looked around that town, and those people and those girls, and I knew that it was a world I couldn't ever belong to. I knew I'd go on drifting from one place to the next until the day I died. I didn't have anything, Alison, until I met you. I didn't even have myself. ''

"That's not true," Alison said, trying to interrupt him.

"You turned my life around. And now I have you. God knows I don't deserve you, but I still have you and I want to keep you. I want to keep the family I love, with a successful business under my belt and another one in the pipeline. I want to go back to Farmington, Ali, I want to go back to the place that rejected me back then and I want to own it. Most of all I want to deserve you."

"Tell me," Alison said, feeling suddenly inexplicably sad as she looked into the same dark eyes that had beguiled her when she was only seventeen. "Is that any better a reason to go back than mine is to stay away?"

"We're going back for you," he whispered, moving his lips over hers, tucking a strand of her blond hair behind her ear. "Because that's the place where you and I started. It's the place where we belong, and all of the things you're worried about are long dead and buried. I promise you when we're there you and I will be happy again. You'll be happy and I'll be different. I'll have more time to spend with you and the kids. Everything will be different, it will be better."

He'd kissed her then, his hand sliding from her knee to her thigh, and because Alison had wanted so much for this to be the fresh start that Marc talked about, she'd let the discussion slide with it. It was one they would never have again, she knew. Once Marc had made up his mind about something he stuck to it like glue, which was something she supposed she ought to be grateful for. After all, he'd made up his mind to choose her sixteen years ago.

She just had to hope that he was right, that all her fears and misgivings about going back to Farmington were foolish and irrational. That once she got settled back in, it would feel as if she had never been away.

The only problem was, that eventuality was what terrified her the most.

Dusk had fallen by the time their car finally rolled into the driveway of their new home. Amy and Gemma were both asleep in the backseat and Dominic was still nodding his head to some barely heard beat.

"Leave them for a second," Marc whispered. "I've got something I want you to see."

Glancing back at her children, Alison got out of the car and waited as Marc asked the moving men to give him another few minutes. Alison found herself smiling, suddenly engulfed in the warmth of nostalgia. In this light, in his jeans and jacket, he looked just like the dark-haired, olive-skinned boy she'd first fallen for, the boy she had sworn to do anything for.

"Come on." Marc held out a hand to her. "Hopefully if all of my plans have worked, then..."

Alison walked into the cavernous hallway just as Marc switched on the lights, and she saw that it was filled with bouquets of red roses. Twelve of them, Alison counted as she looked around, arranged on the marble tiled floor in the shape of a love heart, their sweet scent struggling against that of the new paint, but their color vibrant and bloody against the magnolia walls. It was a dramatic gesture. It was typical Marc.

"Happy Valentine's Day, my beautiful blond bombshell wife," Marc said, wrapping his arms around her from behind.

"And welcome home."

Alison couldn't help but smile as she bent over and picked up one of the bouquets. Suddenly she heard a noise -- a sharp yelp and a whimper coming from somewhere deeper in the house.

"What was that?" she asked Marc, wide-eyed. "Rats?"

Marc laughed. "As far as I know rats don't bark. That, if everything has gone according to plan, is the other part of my surprise. Only this part is mainly for the kids, to help them settle in. Follow me."

"Marc, what have you done?" Alison asked ominously as she followed him into her brand-new kitchen.

"Well, they've been asking and asking for years, and it turns out that one of my new clients is a breeder, so I did her a deal and this was part of it." Marc gestured to a pen that had been set up in the corner of the kitchen, a pen that was inhabited by a small chocolate brown Labrador puppy. "Meet Rosie, our new dog."

Alison's jaw dropped as she watched the puppy climb up the sides of its pen, yapping excitedly, its whole body waggling in greeting.

"It's peed on the floor," she said.

"So she has," Marc said. "But the breeder says it should only take you a couple of weeks to house-train her. You'll be fine."

"Me? I'll be fine?" Alison exclaimed. "Marc, no way. We are not getting a dog. The puppy has to..."

"A puppy!" Gemma shrieked as she raced into the kitchen. "A puppy! Daddy's got a puppy, she's soooooo cute!" Immediately Gemma went over to the young dog and hefted the animal up into her arms, giggling as the puppy licked her face.

"He's kissing me!"

"He's so lovely," Amy said, wide-eyed, stroking the dog's back as Gemma held it. "Let me hold him now, Gemma."

Alison had to concede that as Gemma handed the dog over to her sister, it was the first genuine smile she had seen on Amy's face all day.

"Actually," Marc told them, "she's a girl. Her name's Rosie, but look, don't get too attached to her. Mummy's not sure that having a dog is the best thing, and I expect that Mummy is right. We might have to give her back..."

"Mummy, no!" Gemma was horrified.

"Please, Mummy, don't make us send Rosie back," Amy wailed, clutching the dog tighter to her chest.

Alison sighed, still holding her Valentine roses, as she realized that her husband had stitched her up.

"We can keep her..." Alison had to hold her hand up until the cheers stopped. "As long as I am not the only one walking her, cleaning up after her, or toilet-training her," she added, reaching out to stroke one of Rosie's soft ears. "She is quite sweet, I suppose."

Amy wrinkled up her nose. "And I think she just peed on my foot," she said.

"Oh well," Alison said, setting down her bouquet of flowers to look for the box with detergent in it. "Every rose has its thorn."

Copyright © 2008 by Rowan Coleman

Meet the Author

Rowan Coleman worked in bookselling and publishing for seven years during which time she won the Company magazine Young Writer of the Year award. She is the author of Runaway Wife, The Accidental Mother, Another Mother’s Life, Mommy By Mistake, The Accidental Family, The Home for Broken Hearts, and Lessons in Laughing Out Loud. She lives with her husband, daughter, and sons in England.

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Another Mother's Life 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice read that focuses on the bonds of friendship.
Baconbabe More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It is the second book I read by this author and am looking forward to another novel. Good for a summer read, winter, fall and spring too! I laughed and cried along with the characters... if you can be moved to feel that way, it is a good book! Hated to see it end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like her other books but this one was way too heavy and had too much drama. I didn't enjoy and wouldn't recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MGQ More than 1 year ago
Was fun to read, and had a difficult time putting it down.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started the book at 2 pm Sunday and was through by 6 pm. Could not put it down. I thoroughly enjoyed the book
Mallory_324 More than 1 year ago
I became a dedicated fan of Rowan Coleman's after totally falling in love with her novel The Accidental Mother. So I was really excited to start reading this book because the plot seemed incredible and I was really anxious to read it. But now that I finished it, I would say it wasn't all that great. But that doesn't mean I am reccomending you to not read it. My mother read it and absolutely loved it, so that is just my opinion. But I must say that I will be very disappointed if Coleman doesn't make a sequel to this book because she left the end of the book wide open for one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Farmington, Alison James and Catherine Ashley were best friends for years although their personalities were total opposites of each other. Alison was a flamboyant extrovert while Catherine was somewhat an introvert. That teenage sisterly bond dies the day seventeen year old runs away with Catherine's boyfriend Marc.--------------- Catherine never recovered from the dual betrayals even though she married her soon to be ex husband Jimmy the musician. She is especially unhappy when the married Alison and Marc return home with three children after being away for almost seventeen years. The former friends try to avoid one another, but that proves impossible soon they must confront the past that neither feels strong enough to do.------------------------- This is an interesting psychological character study of a woman who fails to let go of the big hurt that has shaped her relationships even with her husband who loves her. The story line is obviously character driven by the two former BFFs. Although readers get inside the heads of Alison and Catherine leading to a deep understanding of how each feels about the betrayal, that technique at times overwhelms the story line with too much inner soul searching and musing. Still this is a fascinating look at how one traumatic event impacts future choices including relationships.----------- Harriet Klausner