For months I awaited Sheila O’Flanagan’s new book “My Mother’s Secret”.
Once I had it in my hands I almost licked my fingers in eager anticipation, but almost from the first chapter it turned out to be a disappointment.
Meet Jenny and Pascal Sheehan. The couple is about to celebrate their ruby anniversary (40 years), but as it turns out they’re not even married. They faked it all these years.
As young lovers they went to Rome, where Jenny found out she was pregnant, and so they decided to marry to escape the wrath of Jenny’s family.
Of course, marrying on the spur of the moment was impossible and so they forged a wedding certificate, shoved a ring on each other’s finger, posed for a few pictures, and pretended to the whole world that they were legally married.
When their three children find out about this, they flip.
Personally I wouldn’t have a problem with this. I’m not in favor of marriage to begin with, so if these two managed to stay together for forty years, who cares whether their union was legal or not.
That’s not all though. After a few years and two kids, Pascal leaves for a month on a business conference and Jenny has an affair. An affair with consequences as it turns out, because she’s pregnant with this man’s child.
You would have thought that after her first unplanned pregnancy she would have learned her lesson, but apparently she didn’t. What’s more, not only does her husband forgives her little slip, he agrees to bring up the child as his own.
When the lovechild (Steffie) learns of this little tidbit, she goes off the rails. Suddenly her father is no longer her father, her brother and sister are now half-siblings, she can’t forgive her mother for cheating and she doesn’t know who she is anymore.
If Steffie had been a teenager I would have said, okay, she has reason to be upset, but she’s a twenty-seven-year-old woman for heaven sake, a time when most adults know their identity.
If I had to choose between being a lovechild and an accident, I know what I would prefer.
Then there’s Roisin, Steffie’s sister, a character so nasty I would have loved to slap this woman around. She’s selfish with a capital “S” and a control freak beyond belief. She’s of the opinion that her sister should get married and have kids, for no other reason than that her two kids have nieces and nephews to play with. Nothing her family does is good enough, she knows everything better and does everything better. She is the queen and everyone must bow to her.
The rest of the characters aren’t much better. They are devious, jealous and conniving and whine non-stop. If it isn’t about their mother, it’s about their sister, or their marriage, or the kids, or just that things don’t go their way.
In the end all is well. The fake married couple marry for real (heaven knows why), the lovechild finds love and the rest of the cast finds happiness too.
All in all not Sheila O’Flanagan’s best work. Perhaps it was ghost written.
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