Newest review: Waiting to Begin by Amanda Prowse

June 9, 2021

Genre: Women’s fiction

Release date: June 8, 2021

Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars

A woman deals with memories of the past on her birthday and a secret she’s only shared with one other person. As she goes through the day, she tries to ignore her insecurities while also grappling with the reality that her marriage may not be in the best shape. Author Amanda Prowse builds another strong character in a book that needed a little bolstering in her latest release Waiting to Begin.

It’s her 53rd birthday, and Bessie Talbot feels every bit middle-aged. Her children have long since left the nest; one has just left on his honeymoon, and the other is wrapped up in her career. Now it’s just Bessie and her husband, Mario. At one time looking at Mario would make Bessie’s heart race. These days she’d be grateful for the odd palpitation.

The day brings hearty wishes from family and friends, but Bessie can’t shake the feeling that she’s stuck. In fact, she’s felt stuck ever since her 16th birthday. That day started out completely different than her current birthday.

At 16, Bessie woke up knowing she had the whole world ahead of her. Exams had ended, and she just needed the results so she could continue on her path to becoming a flight attendant and traveling the world. She had a boyfriend, although she hadn’t told anyone about him yet, and she and her best friend were all ready to make a splash at the rugby club later that evening for the end-of-term party.

Then everything slid downhill. One after another, her birthday brought so many shocks that Bessie wanted nothing more than for the day to end. She wanted to forget the day ever happened.

She may have physically moved on from turning 16, but Bessie’s never quite gotten over that birthday in her heart and mind. Worse, there are things about that day she’s never told anyone—not her parents, not her best friend (who is her former friend now,) and not even her husband. Those situations still lay claim to who she is, and she thinks about them every year.

As she starts looking around at her life on this latest birthday, Bessie just wants to walk away from it all. It seems like everyone has moved on to bigger and better things. She’s the only one who’s stuck in the past. Try as she might, she can’t seem to make any strides forward. Before the day is out, Bessie will find herself at a crossroads yet again. This time she’ll have to decide whether she can salvage her birthday for good.

Author Amanda Prowse’s latest novel showcases her writing skills in building sympathetic characters. Readers will understand Bessie’s reluctance to move on from the past. Prowse lays out the events of Bessie’s life one careful layer at a time, proving her ease with characters who could very well live next door.

The trouble with the book comes in its pacing and plot. As Bessie relives her memories, the story flashes back to her 16th birthday and intersperses moments from that day with her current birthday. Both feel much longer than they needed to be, both in time and the number of incidents that occur.

Bessie wishes, repeatedly, for the day to end. At some points, readers might be tempted to wish for the same. No doubt, the events on her 16th birthday were necessary to establish her character for later, but Prowse spends too much time driving the main point home. Multiple situations and multiple mentions of those situations come up when a few would have sufficed. As Bessie shares every thought, complaint, and tear, readers might be tempted to tell her to move it along already.

Some parts of the plot are predictable from the earliest pages, leaving readers to wait for Bessie to come to certain conclusions on her own. The result is a story that is much slower than it needed to be. Fans of women’s fiction and diehard Amanda Prowse fans will probably want to read this one. I recommend readers Borrow Waiting to Begin.

Newest review: The Day She Came Back by Amanda Prowse

By Ekta R. Garg

July 29, 2020

Genre: Women’s fiction

Release date: July 7, 2020

Rated: Binge it! / 5 stars

A teenager is left without any family after her last living relative dies. She’s shocked, then, when the mother she thought had died of a drug overdose comes back, healthy and very much alive. The teen must decide if she can forgive her mother for disappearing and figure out how to move on. Acclaimed women’s fiction author Amanda Prowse is back with another winning novel about grief and restarting relationships in The Day She Came Back.

At 18 years old, Victoria Cutter has everything in the world she needs. She has her best friend, Daksha, and her grandmother, Prim. Daksha and Victoria go back so far they don’t remember life without one another, and Prim has been Victoria’s mother figure her entire life. When Victoria’s mother died from a heroin overdose, Prim was right there to take care of Victoria. Since her grandfather’s death almost a decade earlier, Victoria and Prim comprise their small family and the two dote on one another.

Now Victoria is getting ready for the next big step in life: leaving home. She and Daksha have a long trip planned. Before Daksha goes off to university and Victoria becomes an “adult” and figures out what she wants to do with her life, the two will travel the world on the funds they’ve saved. They’re going to live life to the fullest as long as the money lasts.

Then Victoria comes home one day and finds that Prim has passed away in her sleep. No warning; no health issues. Just that morning she and Prim were teasing one another, talking about the most mundane parts of their day. Suddenly Victoria is all alone in Rosebank, the home she shared with Prim in the London suburb of Surrey.

Daksha and her parents rush to comfort Victoria, helping her with funeral arrangements and making sure she eats and sleeps. Victoria appreciates the support—and the copious cups of tea—but she feels horribly alone and scared. Before Prim died, she was nervous but excited about being an adult. Now the thought just terrifies her. How is she supposed to manage such a large house all by herself? How is she supposed to manage life all by herself?

On the day of Prim’s funeral, a woman shows up to the house who Victoria doesn’t know. She’s rattled, thinking the woman is just one of those people morbidly fascinated by funerals. Then the woman reveals her identity: she’s Sarah, Victoria’s long-lost mother.

Victoria has a million questions, not the least of why Sarah insists on calling her “Victory” instead of her proper name. She also feels a deep sense of betrayal when she finds out that Prim knew all along that Sarah wasn’t dead. Others come forward to confirm the fact, and Victoria feels more alone than ever. It’s like Prim has died twice.

Sarah has come to make amends, even though she’s grieving Prim, and Victoria discovers that everyone has a story to tell. Victoria just can’t figure out how to put all the pieces together into a cohesive narrative for herself. As she works through her own grief, Victoria will have to decide whether she can forgive both Sarah and Prim for keeping this secret.

Author Amanda Prowse returns with a wonderful novel that smacks of reality and the process of learning how to let go of a dear family member. Prowse compounds Victoria’s grief by complicating it: not only does she want her wonderful grandmother back with an aching desperation, she’s also furious with her. Bringing Sarah back into her life also reiterates that Victoria grows up at an accelerated pace.

Prowse doesn’t shy away from the tough conversations about and around grief, and that’s where the book shines. Victoria misses her grandmother with a ferocity that jumps off the pages. She wants to understand why Sarah left her, yet she also wants to maintain the right to be angry at her—both emotions are real and painful.

Although the book centers on Victoria’s grief, it also doesn’t forget that she’s an older teen. The plot allows Victoria to make some stupid mistakes that might seem like “life experience” in and of themselves. Within the larger narrative of her losing Prim, her mistakes just reinforce Victoria’s heartache. Prowse handles it all beautifully.

Readers wanting a great book about relationships and second chances will definitely want to read this. It’s an excellent addition to any shelf. I recommend readers Binge The Day She Came Back.