The Year That Changed Everything was published in February 2018. It had been quite a while since I read a Cathy Kelly novel so when I saw this on Audible it was the perfect time to rectify that oversight.
Sam, Callie and Ginger, three women who don’t know each other and live in different places, but have one thing in common. Or two if you count the fact that they will each experience life changing events on their milestone birthdays.
As far as outward appearances go, Ginger Reilly is spirited at work, answering the quips and jokes about her weight and dress sense with a smart retort. Privately she is self-conscious and insecure, hiding her true feelings and self behind large shapeless clothes and flat shoes. She spends her thirtieth birthday, not with her family as she envisaged, but as chief bridesmaid for her best friend Liza, wearing a horrible dress, but as always she defers to her friend. Resigned to the fact no-one is likely to find her attractive, there’s a definite bright spot to Ginger’s day in the form of Stephen, who seems quite taken with her. Ginger begins to believe he might be the one for her. Could her life be turning around at last? Then she overhears a conversation that shatters her completely.
Callie Reynolds seems to have everything. Her husband Jason is throwing Callie an elaborate 50th birthday party for two hundred guests at their impressive Dublin home. Callie would have preferred a quiet dinner but Jason always feels the need to advertise his accumulated wealth. Both he and Callie had grown up poor and for Jason, money and prestige were all that mattered. Callie would have loved her family to be there but after the row years ago she hadn’t been in touch. There was also the worry and annoyance at the attitude of their spoiled fourteen year old daughter. Then mid way through the party, unexpected and unwelcome callers arrive at the door.
Sam Kennedy has a career she loves and a wonderful relationship with her husband Ted. They desperately want a baby and, after years of trying and several failed IVF treatments, Sam is about to give birth to their first child on her fortieth birthday. It’s all she and Ted have ever wanted but as worry, fear of being inadequate and anxieties begin to surface, Sam agonised over her ability to be a good mother. Her own mother couldn’t be further from an ideal role model–cold and distant, she has never been forthcoming with her feelings or shown genuine love to Sam and her sister.
The importance of love, friendship and family ties play a large part in the story. Despite their lives being turned upside down the three women have people they can turn to and rely on. The difficult and relevant issues, such as depression, body image, controlling relationships and deception on a grand scale are handled well.
The narrative is split into sections, alternating between the three women. Ginger is a lovely person, kind and considerate, but struggles with her self-image and being true to herself. Callie, who doesn’t realise how she is being manipulated and finds the truth impossible to swallow. Sam always thought herself very capable at handing whatever situation she found herself in.. until she had to deal with being a mother and responsible for a tiny human being. We follow each of their stories individually until the threads eventually overlap and reach a satisfactory conclusion. The female characters are credible and strong (the male characters perhaps a little less so), their growth and discovery of their own self-worth and confidence through a year of immense change was very interesting to follow. All in all, an easy, very enjoyable listen, with Caroline Lennon’s wonderfully skilled narration.
Three women celebrate their birthdays . . . 30. 40. 50. But their milestone birthdays marks the start of a year that will change everything . . .
Ginger isn’t spending her 30th the way she would have planned. Tonight might be the first night of the rest of her life – or a total disaster.
Sam is finally pregnant after years of trying. When her waters break on the morning of her 40th birthday, she panics: forget labour, how is she going to be a mother?
Callie is celebrating her 50th at a big party in her Dublin home. Then a knock at the door mid-party turns her perfect life upside down . . .