I think I’ve read all of West Australian author Rachael John’s standalone novels. She always offers readers interesting characters. They’re very real and complex. We often meet them at a time their world has been upended and they’re hitting rock bottom, but she ensures they are resilient. In short they’re generally women I think I’d like.
Flying the Nest
by Rachael Johns
Published by Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd
Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction
The first time Ashling Wood realises her marriage is on the rocks is when her husband, Adrian, suggests they try nest parenting. Heartbroken, Ash suddenly finds herself living a double life - one week with her children, the next cohabiting with her happily single sister-in-law. Her friends think the modern custody solution is an exciting opportunity for her to spread her wings, but all Ash wants is her family back together.
An offer to renovate a seaside cottage seems like the perfect distraction for Ash while waiting for Adrian to come to his senses. She's determined to fix her marriage as well as the cottage, but life gets even more complicated when she meets local fisherman Dan Emerson.
Soon, each home-stay becomes more dysfunctional, while for the other week Ash enjoys the peaceful life of the beachside community. The more time Ash spends in Ragged Point, the more she questions what she really wants. Is a sea-change the fresh start she needs to move on?
When tragedy calls Ash back to the city, she's torn between the needs of her family and her future. Can her family life fit in with a permanent move to the beach or could Ash's new-found independence attract Adrian back to the nest?
I hadn’t actually heard of nest parenting but – as the blurb says, the breakdown of her marriage comes as a huge shock to Ashling. It takes her quite a while to realise she’s not been happy herself. Though not unhappy either, she just assumed life involved going through the motions and being there for your kids and husband – centring your life around them. There’s a line late in the book when her husband suggests she’s prioritising a possible new romance over her family, and she refutes this, saying she’s prioritising herself.
It sounds wanky (nowadays) to talk about women’s journeys of self-discovery but it is a common theme in Johns’ books. Perhaps it’s better to call it self realisation or if you’re a fan of Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs and pop-psychology… self-actualisation.
It’s an important ‘journey’ (god reality television has a lot of answer for!) however because in many ways the Ash we meet when this book opens is slightly annoying in her assumption that she’ll win her husband back (by becoming more attractive naturally!). In fact, she seems intent on taking him back…. if he’ll have her.
On the surface this is about a woman feeling rejected by her husband. She takes solace in the fact she’s a good mother and her children love her… at least until the separation. Of course, many experience Ash’s sense of loss when they become ’empty-nesters’ (rather than just having brief periods of time away from their kids). I know of some whose lives have centred around their families and they no longer know who or what they are without them ‘there’. Of course this is often exacerbated if someone isn’t working outside of the home or doesn’t have hobbies outside of their family.
The old cottage by the beach as a retreat could be a little cliched but it isn’t and I really liked the life Johns gives Ash there. We can see where things are heading professionally and personally for Ash but it’s a pleasant ride. I very much appreciated that once Ash makes some decisions about her future, Johns avoids any temptation for her to prevaricate, despite her having to move outside of her comfort zone.
I read this in an unplanned single sitting. I loved the support cast Johns offers and she gives readers the chance to reflect on a range of friendships and relationships. It’s an easy read and Johns has a comfortable and familiar style of writing. I did feel it seemed a bit wordy at times—though I’m very verbose so a fine one to comment on that! However, I did delay reading it a while as anything over 400 pages sometimes feels as if it’s too great a commitment. Particularly at the moment!
Flying the Nest by Rachael Johns was published by Harlequin Australia (HQ Fiction) and is now available.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.