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Winter Flowers by Carol Coffey
With a gripping opening, Winter Flowers launches the reader directly into the troubled life of two little brothers, Luke and Jack. Their mother, Hazel, has yet another drunken boyfriend’ around for the evening and the little lads are shunned to their bedroom. But when the ‘boyfriend’ falls asleep and leaves the chip pan on, Jack and Hazel end up in hospital with Luke begging his aunt Iris for help – again!
Tired of bailing her sister out of trouble, Iris turns up at the hospital to receive a litany of abuse from Hazel and she’s left with little choice but stay the night with her sister and nephews when Hazel insists on signing herself out of hospital without medical consent. This is but another in a pattern of events in the sisters’ lives. Left in care by their father after their mother’s death, Iris has been watching out for her wayward sister for many a year. Her nephews, whom she adores, are her greatest concern, not to mention her fear that history is repeating itself in front of her very eyes.
Iris has also been seriously affected by her father’s abandonment, leaving her to make a catastrophic decision sixteen years before when she walked away from an adoring husband and eight-month-old son in London. Turning her back on a career in nursing as well as her family, she lives a simple lifestyle in Dublin and survives on the meagre income she makes from dressmaking, the only disruption to her loneliness being the distraction provided by Hazel and her little boys.
But it takes a serious misdemeanour from Hazel’s ‘boyfriend’ to force both sisters to take a true look at the danger Hazel is putting her children in. On the verge of losing them, she makes a concentrated effort to be the parent to her boys she had never received herself. Happiness, however, is in short supply for the family as yet another disaster strikes, reversing the sisters’ roles for the first time and putting Hazel in charge of Iris’s wellbeing. Unused to taking responsibility, Hazel isn’t confident she’s capable of doing it alone and with little thought for her sister’s feelings on the matter, she dials Iris’s ex-husband’s number, reopening a painful chapter in Iris’s life that can never be undone.
A beautifully written book, Winter Flowers displays two vulnerable little boys as real people born into unfortunate circumstance. Their personalities jump off the page and despite the sadness tinged throughout the book from the very first page, the author has done a tremendous job in portraying this dysfunctional family’s to survive and overcome issues from their past that were entirely outside of their control.