This post is part of the blog tour for the book. Thanks to Random Things Tours and Octopus Publishing for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
In this brutally honest memoir Emma John explores the positives and negatives of living a single life and the challenges of maintaining friendships as people throw themselves into their growing families. It is a meditation on independence and a challenge to the long accepted view that we aren’t complete until we find our soulmate. She does not hold back on her sometimes less complementary feelings, making this a book that I think everyone can relate to in one way or another.
Her relationship with her sister is central, their great affection for each other apparent at every turn, yet she admits to worrying about being left behind, of losing her place as the one her sister would always turn to. The news of an imminent addition to the family also throws her into a spin. She admits to these struggles, but doesn’t run away from the situations, resulting in a much happier outcome than she’d imagined. John raises an interesting idea, that when friends and family get married or have children, her life and role in theirs change without her consent. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and lack of control. She logically understands the shifts but struggles to resist feelings of rejection, of being pushed further out of the circle of loved ones.
Despite these feelings she also admits her own reluctance to engage with some aspects of her friends' lives. She’s never, for example, seen the fascination of babies and doesn’t hide this from the new parents she knows. In her desire for friendships to stay the same she inadvertently puts up barriers. She’s frequently self-deprecating and her honesty is raw, but she seems not to notice her devotion to her friends, stepping up when they’re in need and doing what she can to look after them.
There’s a definite feeling that her life lacks the markers of progress that those around her are hitting and this causes a feeling of stagnation. She tries throwing herself into work but hates knowing when everyone goes home they’re no longer thinking of her, believes that she isn’t the first person anyone would turn to. It’s when she begins to shift her focus from external forms of validation, stops thinking of herself as waiting for her future to begin and follows what makes her happy in the here and now, that she seems to really find her feet. The closing chapters touch on her experience of lockdown and the pandemic more generally, the absence of loneliness and the realisation that she has a solid support network who rely on her too.
This is a brilliant, thought-provoking book that will make you consider the way value is perceived in a life. It is about single life and how this interacts with shifting family dynamics, friendships that stand the test of time, and ultimately learning to accept yourself, setting your own priorities, and living for the present.