Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: Lifesaving for Beginners

By Becky Gulc

**Giveaway is now closed**

Lifesaving for Beginners by Ciara Geraghty is a dual narrative book with chapters alternating between the points of view of 39 year-old Kat Kavanagh living in Ireland, and Milo McIntyre, a nine year-old boy living in Brighton.

Kat Kavanagh is the secret author of a series of bestselling crime fiction novels; she loves her younger brother Ed to bits; has a somewhat forced relationship with her parents and boyfriend, Thomas, with Kat acting as a passive participant in the whole relationship. Kat has one close friend Minnie.

Milo McIntyre is a happy nine year-old boy who loves his Mum to bits (his mum being pretty much a single parent since his dad moved to Scotland to be with a younger woman) and the lifesaving classes he attends after school.

The lives of Kat and Milo are changed forever following a tragic traffic accident in Ireland. Whilst most people would be thankful to be alive after the fatal accident, Kat Kavanagh is not someone who feels blessed. In many ways the accident ends up having a detrimental and life changing affect on Kat. Whilst Thomas is more keen than ever to move their relationship forward as a couple, Kat is more keen than ever to get things back to ‘normal’ without all the ‘miracle’ talk and all the fuss; ‘normal’ for Kat means being non-committal; evasive and wondering how she ended up living with a guy like Thomas in the first place. Kat is a woman who is very happy to carry on as she is; not being the public face for her books; living in ‘her’ flat’; her terms. The problem is that since the accident, Kat hasn’t written a single word despite being hounded by her publishers. Kat has her foot firmly placed on the self-destruct button in more ways than one. Did the accident affect Kat more than she lets on? Or is there more to it? Will pushing those who love her away help her find happiness and what she’s really looking for?

Milo. Sweet, wise but vulnerable Milo. His chapters centre on him adapting to change as a result of the accident, a change he never saw coming, a change that he may not have the tools to deal with, but will those around him offer him the support he needs? Or will the needs of our young character be over-looked in the context of a complex family set-up or will his lifesaver classes help him in ways he couldn’t anticipate?

I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend this book. Lifesaving for Beginners really tugs at your heartstrings and I think a lot of that has to do with one of the narratives from Milo. I felt like I really got into his head and his heart, that Ciara wrote this child’s viewpoint and experience of the world impeccably; how this young child sees the world when it’s suddenly turned upside down. I can’t recall reading a book lately that alternates between an adult and child’s narrative but felt it worked really well and balanced itself well. Kat is also a really well formed character. Yes, she’s flawed, self-absorbed to an extent and very frustrating at times, but as I reader I came to understand her actions as the novel progressed which is what I was looking for.

Whilst the two stories share a common feature in terms of the accident and its aftermath there is a deeper connection between the two stories which becomes unravelled about halfway through the novel. Whilst I anticipated a clearer connection would develop (due to the blurb of the book suggesting as such), I thought a strength of the book was that I didn’t anticipate what was coming and it was seamlessly drawn together without ever being predictable. I found the book difficult to put down throughout, but especially once the twist is revealed and the deeper connection between the stories more apparent. I was actually hooked from the first chapter which actually centres on the accident from the perspective of the driver at fault, who we don’t hear of again throughout the novel. I thought this built the tension nicely before we delve into the worlds of Kat and Milo.

As well as loving Milo as a character (I’d forgotten how I viewed the world when I was nine, but I think Ciara writes this perspective so well and it did jolt me back to my childhood at times), there are some other great characters in this novel such as Kat’s brother, Ed, who I grew to love through Kat and Milo’s stories. Kat’s relationship with Ed is such a poignant one too in enabling us to care about Kat as a character as despite her flaws, she is a fabulous sister.

Overall I found this to be an emotionally satisfying read. There were definitely opportunities where plots and twists could have been conveniently tied-up but I always felt it delivered the story with a good dose of realism bearing in mind it is a book which covers some very sensitive and complex subjects and acknowledges the complex make up of many modern day families. This book made me smile, cry (in both happy and sad ways) and gave me an ending I was happy with, what more could I ask for?

I’d also like to pay credit to the cover which I think is beautiful and would definitely capture my attention if I saw it. Most importantly for me though I feel the cover reflects the story perfectly and this has obviously been carefully considered.

Thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for the book in exchange for an honest review. They also have one copy for a lucky UK reader.

How to win Lifesaving for Beginners:
Tell us what you were like as a child. (One entry per person). Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win.

UK only. Giveaway ends November 7th at midnight GMT.

More by Ciara Geraghty:


rachel said...

As a child I loved to do many things. I liked to play sports with my dad, cook with my mom, and always had a big imagination playing "harriet the spy". I also LoVED to read, so much in fact that my parents had a "book nook" area for me complete with my large bookcase holding all my favorite books and many soft pillows to cuddle with as I read by a large window. I still love reading today!

Kritters Ramblings said...

As a child, I was a reader which is no surprise to those who know me now. I had my own little library and my sister would "check out" books from my library - maybe that also shows my organizational side also!

Kat said...

As a child I was very shy, enjoyed spending time with my dad, and my brother was my best friend. I loved going on holidays to blackpool to go on the shows. I liked watching films such as beauty and the beast and little mermaid.

Mary said...

I was a fun child. I grew up with a dad that made everyday an adventure. I loved playing with my friends in the playhouse he built for me. I was also and still am a big reader. I loved going to the library and I loved getting books for gifts.


EFC Chrissy said...

I was a reader as a child...always picking up the book after lights out to see what happened next despite being told to go to bed. I was also stubborn, a trait I now see in my son.

Linda Kish said...

I was quiet and introverted and never changed.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

I was a Tom boy. Loved reading about pirates, cowboys and Indians, super heroes, Robin Hood, Famous Five etc, built dens in the woods, played with toy guns and bows and arrows and loved reenacting the adventures I was reading about. Now I love everything girly and pink and snuggling up with a cup of tea and a good chick lit.

Anonymous said...

I was very shy and introverted, and forever being told off for daydreaming. All my school reports said 'Tina needs to concentrate more on her lessons and spend less time daydreaming.' But ordinary life was so boring compared to the stories I made up. My imagination knew no bounds, so it's no wonder I became a writer :)

Tina said...

I was very shy and introverted, and forever being told off for daydreaming. All my school reports said 'Tina needs to concentrate more on her lessons and spend less time daydreaming.' But ordinary life was so boring compared to the stories I made up. My imagination knew no bounds, so it's no wonder I became a writer :)

Amber @ A Little Pink in the Cornfields said...

I was a shy child that always had a book in her face!

missamberljohnson at gmail dot com

Unknown said...

I loved the great outdoors as a child ~ I lived in the Dorset countryside with my parents and younger brother, he and I formed a club "Smokebusters" where we spied and told on the naughty teens that were smoking in the school woods!
We used to go snail hunting. There was this one time when my brother accidently smashed my finger with a rock against a flint wall while trying to free the snails. Boy did that hurt!!!

Unknown said...

My email is:

sorry I forgot to add it in my comment.

Heidi said...

I was a really easy active child. My "partner" in crime was always my little sister. Besides of sharing a room we have shared pretty much everything. She is still my best friend today (although we live in different countries).


theresa said...

I was a quiet and shy child always reading and loved colouring in.

Melissa said... chose a winner from all UK entrants who left their contact info (one entry per person).

Congrats to Tina (katerina44)!

Thanks to everyone for participating and to Hodder & Stoughton for sharing the book with our winner!

Tina said...

Wow, thanks :) I'm delighted and can't wait to receive and start reading it!