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Em & Me by Beth Morrey

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | General Fiction

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Em & Me by Beth Morrey is published with Harper Collins and is described as ‘a big-hearted, hopeful novel about finding second chances – and taking them.’ Having previously read and thoroughly enjoyed Saving Missy, Beth Morrey’s gorgeous 2020 debut, I was delighted with the opportunity to read Em & Me.

Em & Me is the story of Delphine Jones and her daughter Emily. Living in a dank basement flat with Delphine’s father, life is difficult. Delphine’s vibrant and spirited mother died in a tragic bike accident when Delphine was in her teenage years leaving her father unable to cope with life. His despair and grief changed him. He withdrew into himself, no longer able to deal with a teenage daughter, leaving Delphine to fend for herself.

Delphine loved to immerse herself in her books and her teachers encouraged her to fulfil her dreams but Delphine’s journey in life took an unexpected twist when at seventeen she discovered she was pregnant. With a father who communicated less and less and a new baby to look after, Delphine was left with little choice but to abandon her education and find work. Over the years the drudgery of her life took its toll on Delphine but she never let her dreams for Emily fade. Em was a smart child with a very bright future ahead of her. As her mother, Delphine was determined that Em would strive out into the world with a confidence that she never had but Delphine was forever faced with more and more challenges and her struggle was ofttimes just too much. There were moments in her days that presented glimpses of the past, moments that filled her with joy as she recalled her mother and her je ne sais quoi approach to life. Her mother was French and her little touches around the place brightened up the dreariest of days. She was a sparkling light for Delphine and her father but since she left them, that light had permanently extinguished.

One day Delphine makes a decision that impacts everything in her life and, with one tiny step forward, she begins to see the possibility of a different life for Em and herself. Delphine Jones is someone who unwittingly attracts people to her. She is unassuming, self-deprecating and very much unaware of her attractiveness, both inside and out. Delphine has not put herself first for many, many years but with a little encouragement from unlikely sources, Delphine soon discovers that a whole new world awaits her.

Em & Me is a story that will resonate with folk for different reasons. How many of us have packed away our younger-self dreams and ambitions? How often have we wondered how different our lives might be had we chosen a different path? Maybe it was a dream to travel that was left unfulfilled. Maybe it was a dream to dance, to sing, to paint? Delphine Jones symbolises all those buried dreams, those long-buried passions, encouraging us all to live our lives to the fullest knowing that we only get one shot at it.

“My new protagonist Delphine Jones has to open her mind. A woman with many talents whose ambitions were thwarted by circumstances – I wanted to tell her story because I feel that on some level, it’s everyone’s story. Life is a race, and to one degree or another we are all hampered by constraints that pull us back and slow us down – but maybe the race is more interesting and rewarding because of it. Delphine is out to get herself back on track, to live her best life, if only she can work out what that is, and dare to do it” – Beth Morrey

An uplifting and truly inspiring tale, Em & Me is filled with the most wonderful characters, all depicted beautifully by Beth Morrey. The theme of community and friendship is very strong throughout as Delphine suddenly finds herself surrounded by people who want to help. As their kindness flows toward her, Delphine tentatively makes the decision, with a little encouragement from Em, to embrace this new adventure and see where the road takes her.

Em & Me is a joy to read, a book that will provide every reader with a heart-warming and upbeat experience. Delphine opens up like a flower and it was an absolute joy to see her blossom as the story progressed. A very thought-provoking and feel-good tale, Em & Me is that book that encourages us all to see the possibilities in the everyday and to be open to adventure when the opportunity presents itself. Optimistic, affecting and bursting with positivity, Em & Me truly is a delightful and charming tale, one I am very happy to recommend to all.

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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