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Three generations of plucky women live, love, and argue under one roof in this UK bestseller, which, we’re told, made former schoolteacher Long a rags-to-riches media darling.

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte, a bright student with academic aspirations, doesn’t realize she’s pregnant until after she’s broken up with her boyfriend. Charlotte’s mother Karen, a teacher’s aide, is understandably distressed. As a teenager, she gave up her ambitions when she got pregnant and married Charlotte’s good-natured but feckless father, from whom she’s been divorced for years. Nan, Karen’s simple working-class mother, enjoys happy memories of her past as she slips into dementia, making huge demands on Karen’s energy and patience. When Karen discovers that Nan adopted her, she fantasizes that her real mother will offer the middle-class gloss she longs for. Charlotte decides against abortion, as do most unwed teenaged mothers in the growing mother-daughter-granddaughter chick-lit subgenre. Karen is furious, but Nan is supportive; surprisingly, so are all Charlotte’s friends and teachers. As the pregnancy progresses, Charlotte develops a friendship with class nerd Daniel, who turns out to be sensitive, smart, genuinely middle-class (his father is a doctor), and great at sex. Meanwhile, exhausted and fed up with caring for her daughter and Nan, Karen runs off briefly to London, where she meets her birth mother, a horrible woman whose abuse caused the death of Karen’s younger half-sister. A chastened Karen returns just in time for the birth of Charlotte’s son, and the three women have a few moments of true joy before Nan suffers a stroke. Author Long undercuts her ambition to portray everyday women’s struggles by providing a deux ex machina discovery that softens all the hard facts about being an unwed mother, a teacher’s aide, or a stroke victim.

Lots of cranky and skillfully artless charm goes into pulling the inevitable heartstrings.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-345-47965-3
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2005