I’m not traditionally a reader of feel-good books. Most I read are those written by writing and blogging friends whose words I enjoy and who I know will always deliver on their promise. Reinventing Emily Brown is the third book I’ve read by Jodi Gibson and I’ve enjoyed them all. It’s perfect for lovers of Virgin River (and the like) as it offers that perfect balance of joy and happiness with personal angst and life-not-going-how-you-expect.
Here, I felt I could fairly confidently guess where the book was going and how it would end, but I very happily coasted along because sometimes that predictability is comforting and exactly what you need.
Reinventing Emily Brown
by Jodi Gibson
Published by Verb Publishing
Genres: Women's Fiction
Broke, homeless, and teetering on the edge of divorce, Emily finds herself on the doorstep of her childhood home in the coastal hamlet of Curlew Bay, with her disgruntled fifteen-year-old daughter in tow.
Contemplating how her once successful life has unravelled so completely, Emily realises she can either wallow in despair or, as her mother would say, ‘take the bull by the horns’. Determined to prove she’s not a complete and utter failure, Emily hatches a daring, albeit feeble, plan: a reinvention of epic proportions.
Despite her concerted efforts at a fresh start, Emily’s plans are constantly thrown into disarray. Hayley is hell-bent on making each day a battleground, Emily’s usually reliable mum, Mary, is acting oddly out of character, and Emily’s ‘perfect’ sister, Lucy, is hiding something behind her flawless façade. Throw in a cantankerous basset hound and a disastrous foray into the beauty industry and Emily is left wondering if she’s made the biggest mistake of her life.
Little does she know, her greatest challenge lies in Simon, her childhood sweetheart. As their lives are once again entwined, the secret Emily has guarded fiercely for years is now poised to shatter everything she’s tried so desperately to build.
Gibson’s a great writer and excellent story teller. Her characters are enough like people I know that they feel very real and relatable. I’m older than Emily and younger than her mother Mary but could relate to both characters here, despite not having children – which isn’t always the case when I’m reading something that’s very motherhood-centred.
Gibson gets straight to the point and the book opens as Emily’s life falls apart. She realises she’s not been happy for some time but just kept waiting for things to improve. And I could certainly relate to that, as I’m sure many others will. ‘Once x happens, it’ll all be okay…’ 🙄
I appreciated that Gibson doesn’t demonise Emily’s husband Anthony. He’s responsible for some of the mess the family is in and though Emily’s furious with him, she lets Hayley continue to idolise her father and blame her for their ills – not wanting to let on how dire things are. Gibson’s also thrown in a high-achieving big sister, and Emily feels she certainly suffers in comparison. Of course we learn that Lucy’s life isn’t as wonderful as Emily assumes. On that note, I liked that Emily’s mother Mary is one of our narrators as well because – not only will she appeal to an older group of readers – but it’s interesting getting her ‘take’ on her daughters’ relationship.
There’s a lot on offer here and it’s a satisfying read, with a strong focus on relationships and – not surprisingly – reinvention, or reimagining the life we’ve mapped out for ourselves.
Reinventing Emily Brown by Jodi Gibson will be published by Verb Publishing and available from mid September 2023.
I received a copy of this book from the author for review purposes.