Another Mother's Life

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9781416583028: Another Mother's Life


Can you ever mend a shattered friendship?

From Rowan Coleman, author of the acclaimed bestseller The Accidental Mother, comes a deeply moving novel for every woman who was ever a teenager in love, a mother, or made a heartbreaking decision.

For wealthy Alison James, moving with her family to her hometown of Farmington presents more than a case of relocation jitters. Fifteen years ago, she fled town, eloping with her best friend's boyfriend. Now, blessed with three children, but uneasy in her marriage, she wonders if that decision led her away from the life she was meant to lead.

Catherine Ashley, broke, the mother of two and almost divorced, can't help but wonder the same thing. Although she's content with her children, she finds herself returning again and again to those few weeks fifteen years ago when she fell deeply in love, only to be betrayed by her most trusted friend.

Now, once more living in the same town, Alison and Catherine are about to find out just how different their lives could still be. But this time around they are adults, and while their own happiness is at stake, so is their children's.

Wise and warmhearted, Another Mother's Life will make you laugh and cry -- and think about what you would do when confronted by some of life's most difficult choices.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Rowan Coleman worked in bookselling and publishing for seven years during which time she won the Company magazine Young Writer of the Year award. She is the author of Runaway Wife, The Accidental Mother, Another Mother’s Life, Mommy By Mistake, The Accidental Family, The Home for Broken Hearts, and Lessons in Laughing Out Loud. She lives with her husband, daughter, and sons in England.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

One

Alison James found that her feet could not move.

"Good-bye fireplace, good-bye window, good-bye spider's web, good-bye doorknob..." Alison listened to her five-year-old daughter's litany of farewells and she knew that her husband would be in the car, his forefinger drumming against the steering wheel impatiently as he waited for her and Amy to come out and join the rest of the family on their trip to their new home, their new life. The moving van had left almost half an hour ago and Alison knew that Marc was horrified at the thought of his widescreen TV languishing on the damp front lawn while the movers waited for someone to let them in. What he didn't know was that despite all that had happened here, for two of the family, at least, it was hard to say good-bye.

The horn sounded from outside, three long bursts that made Amy jump in her skin.

"Come on then, sweetheart," Alison said, picking up her daughter's hand. "It's time to go to our new home, it will be very exciting, won't it? A proper adventure."

Amy looked up at her mummy.

"But I haven't said good-bye stairs, good-bye loo, good-bye airing cupboard, good-bye..."

"How about you just say one big good-bye to the whole house?" Alison prompted, even though she would be perfectly happy to wait while Amy bid farewell to every brick and board. She knew exactly how her daughter felt about leaving their London home because she was just as reluctant to leave it, particularly considering where they were moving to. Everyone else thought they were starting afresh, beginning a new life and turning a clean page. Only Alison seemed to understand that they were traveling back into the past, specifically her past.

But the decision had been made and now it was impossible to turn back.

"Is Farmington nice, Mama?" Amy asked, closing her fingers tightly around Alison's. Alison felt an echoing clench of anxiety in her gut.

"Yes, darling, it's lovely. It's the place where Mummy grew up, remember? And the town where Granny and Grandpa live is only a few miles away. When they get back from their trip we'll see them all the time. Besides, Farmington has lots more room to play and not so much pollution. And the school will be great. You'll love it. Just think of all the new friends you'll make."

Alison looked down at Amy's small, quiet face. She could only guess at how terrifying this move must seem to the five-year-old.

What her husband didn't seem to be able to understand was that going home was nearly as terrifying for her.

"Good-bye house," Amy said on a heavy sigh. "Be happy with your new family."

Then, finally, Alison forced her leaden feet to move and, leading Amy by the hand, she shut the door on her old life forever.

"Get a move on, love." Marc leaned out of the car window. "I'd like to get us all in before dark!"

Once in the car, Alison looked in the rearview mirror. Fifteen-year-old Dominic was slumped in the very rear, his arms crossed, his woollen hat pulled down over his brows so his black hair fanned into his eyes, his beloved electric guitar in its case on the seat next to him. He was plugged into his iPod with his eyes closed, shutting the world out, displaying his disapproval at what was happening with a silent if not peaceful protest. Her middle child, eight-year-old Gemma, was staring happily out the window, her legs drumming in anticipation of a new adventure, a new world to conquer and hundreds of new friends to make -- possibly the only one in the whole family who was truly looking toward the future.

Only Amy, who had the flats of her palms pressed against the car window, kept looking back. Only Amy was still saying her good-byes even as they turned the corner and their old street was out of sight for good. Only Amy, who brushed away a tear, then put her thumb in her mouth and clung to her toy for dear life, seemed aware of exactly what they had left behind.

Only Amy and Alison, that is.

"Come on Alison, it's perfect, admit it." Marc had pressed her only six weeks earlier when he'd come home and told her he thought they should put the house on the market because he'd found them the perfect place to move to.

Alison had half looked at the details of the new house he had thrust under her nose the minute after he'd walked in the door. That was Marc. He was an all-or-nothing kind of man; things had to be done right away or not at all, and this, it seemed, was one of them. He had made a mistake and now he was taking decisive action to fix it, decisive and drastic. The house in the photo was certainly much bigger than their current house, set in some grounds at the end of what looked like a long driveway.

"There's no way we can afford a house like this near enough for you to be able to commute, and if you think that I'm going to be stuck out in the country while you're in town all week, then..."

"That's not it at all, Al," he said. "I've been thinking and, well, the dealership in Notting Hill runs itself more or less, it's established. There's no challenge for me there anymore and I think we all need a change, a proper fresh start for all of us." Alison looked at him and waited for the hard sell. Marc picked up her hand as he sat down next to her. "You need a change of scenery after everything that went on at Christmas, not to mention what's been going on with Dom. That's twice now he's been brought home by a policeman, Alison. He's been warned for riding in a stolen car. What will happen next? Will we find a knife in his school bag or have the next policeman turn up on our doorstep to tell us our son's been shot for looking at some kid the wrong way? You don't want that life for him, do you, Al? This is the perfect solution, and look at where the house is."

Alison had stopped looking at her husband the moment he mentioned Christmas. Only Marc could refer to something so painful and humiliating in passing, as if what had happened was merely an inconvenience that a good holiday could sort out. But when she looked at the address of the house, all thoughts of Christmas disappeared.

"This house is in Farmington," she said slowly, feeling suddenly chilled to the core. "We're not moving to Farmington."

"Why not Farmington?" Marc asked her. "We'll be much closer to your parents, once they get back from their grand tour. They only live a few miles away from Farmington and you know how much you'd like to be nearer your mum, especially now that you two get on so much better. You're the only one of us with any family, and I happen to think we should make the most of that, for your sake and the kids'. You spent too long separated from your family; this is a chance, maybe a last chance, for you to make up for those years." Marc paused, holding Alison's gaze. He sounded so persuasive, so rational. As if he wasn't asking her to go back to the place where her life had changed course forever, as if she was the mad one for not wanting to go back.

"Besides, you grew up there," Marc carried on. "It's the perfect place to bring the kids up, it's surrounded by countryside, it's got good schools and low crime rates...and look at what we'd get for our money over there compared to this place. So, why not Farmington?"

"You know why not Farmington," Alison said, redirecting her gaze at him. "Marc, you're incredible, you really are."

Marc stared at her wide-eyed for a moment or two as she waited for him to catch up.

"What? You mean because of...? Oh, Al, don't be silly. That's all in the past now, long gone and forgotten. Nobody cares about that anymore, not even your parents!"

"I care!" Alison told him, fighting to temper her tone because the girls were in the next room and Dominic would be home soon. "Would you move back to Birmingham, to the place where your foster mother told you she didn't want you living with her anymore and that she was putting you back in a children's home?"

Marc removed his hand from hers and she felt the chill of its departure.

"I wouldn't move back to Birmingham because it's a shithole," he said, reacting angrily as he always did when Alison mentioned his childhood. "It's not the same and you know it. I got dragged up through foster care and children's homes, kicked about from pillar to post. You had everything you ever wanted. A nice safe life, in a nice safe town, with nice safe parents. Is it so wrong that I want to give that life to my children, and especially to Dom, before he messes up his life for good?"

"You don't give him enough credit," Alison protested. "If you could have seen him in the school show, you would have seen how talented he is. Maybe if you talked to him every now and again -- "

"I have talked to him," Marc interrupted her impatiently. "I talked to him for hours after the car incident. I don't know, I look at him and I see myself, Al. The boy needs straightening out. I think living in Farmington could be the answer."

"Look, if you want to move from here then fine. I'm not thrilled to live here anymore either. But we don't have to go to Farmington. That is the last place we should have to go," Alison told him bleakly. "The night I left there with you I knew I was never going back, I never could go back."

"Who cares now about what happened back then? It was an age ago, Alison, it doesn't mean anything now."

"Not to you?"

"Of course not to me!" Marc exclaimed. "Al, the last couple of months have been hard on you, you're not thinking straight. If you were you'd see how perfect this is."

"Even so" -- Alison looked up wearily at Marc -- "it doesn't have to be Farmington. There are a hundred towns like Farmington, two hundred -- a thousand even. Any one of those would give the children the kind of life you want them to have, but not this one, Marc. It doesn't have to be Farmington. Mum and Dad don't even live there anymore!"

Marc bowed his head, his hands folded in his lap as they sat side by side on the sofa. "When I came to Farmington I was a railway laborer," he said, beginning the story she already knew so well. "Working nights re...

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