Flight by Isabel Ashdown
When Wren Irving's numbers come up in the first National Lottery draw, she doesn't tell her husband, Rob. Instead she quietly packs her bags, kisses her six-month-old daughter Phoebe goodbye, and leaves.
We pick up the story two decades later. Rob is now living with childhood friend Laura who has taken over mothering duties of Phoebe, and Phoebe is herself pregnant. They have no idea where Wren is until a journalist tracks her down.
Wren has rebuilt a life of sorts for herself, very different from the family unit Rob has with Laura and Phoebe. She lives near the sea and spends her days on the beach with her two dogs Willow and Badger. Her only friend in the world is Arthur who sells her a cup of coffee every morning. She has deliberately shut herself off, and feels things crashing down around her when the same journalist contacts her.
As Wren's secret existence is revealed, another secret from the past catches up with Rob, leaving him uncertain what to do and cut off from Laura just when he needs her most.
The story weaves backwards and forwards between this present day narrative and a historical narrative that takes us back to Rob and Laura's childhood together, and the pivotal moment when they both meet Wren for the first time.
Two strong themes in the story are motherhood and love.
What is the nature of motherhood? Why can't Wren cope with motherhood, and how could she have left baby Phoebe behind? Does it have anything to do with her relationship with her own mother? And how does it feel for Laura to take on the mother role in Phoebe's life when she hasn't been able to become a mother herself?
The love aspect is also interesting. Rob loves Wren and Laura in different ways and at different times, forming what is in some ways a classic love triangle but in many ways something much more complex than that.
I really enjoyed this book. There's so much to it, and you can only really scratch the surface in a review. It encompasses so much life and emotion in its journey through the decades and through the lives of Wren, Laura and Rob. Keeping the reader's sympathy with all three of them is a fine balancing act, but it works. Wren, in particular, could have been a really off-putting character, but is handled so sensitively that she isn't.
In the end the book does hold out hope for the future, despite what the various characters have suffered in their lives.
I strongly recommend this book to others, it is one that I will continue to think about for a while.
Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.