Shari Low shares her thoughts on love and forgiveness.
Sometimes, in the midst of writing a novel, the line between fact and fiction is blurred, because layers of the story are inspired by experiences, places, people, feelings and memories.
The idea for The Story Of Our Life came, as it always does, from a collision of real and imaginary events.
The starting point was love at first sight. That bit was true. Twenty seconds after I set eyes on my husband for the first time, I fell in love with him. In hindsight, it may have been lust. It’s another of those blurred lines. Either way, it took him a little while to catch up. He asked me to marry him on our third date, before I knew his favourite colour, or movie, or star sign. By some miracle, two decades later, he still hasn’t made a bid for freedom. Oh, and it’s blue, The Godfather and Scorpio.
Without dropping in any spoilers, many other themes in this novel are inspired by our life together. Like the main characters, Shauna and Colm, over the years we have dealt with loss, trauma, fears, and heartbreak and we’ve loved and laughed, even when we should probably have cried.
And, like Shauna, I live my life with a group of friends, most of whom are usually to be found sitting round our kitchen table, tea in hand and medicinal biscuit tin at the ready.
Then there are the storylines that I haven’t experienced, the ones that came from idle curiosity, or second-hand tales, or probing the shadows of the imagination during a sleepless night.
In the first few pages, we learn that Colm has done something that, in most cases, would be considered unforgivable. He has slept with another woman. That would usually be a deal-breaker. The end of the road. But is it worth throwing away a lifetime because of one moment of betrayal?
The question at the heart of the book, is how much are you able to forgive of the people you truly love?
Do you walk away from friends because they do terrible things? Do you accept the behaviour of your parents, even when they are unspeakably callous, just because they share your DNA? Can we really judge and condemn others, when none of us has lived a perfect life?
Or does love, true love, for your friends, your family, your soul-mate, ultimately demand that you accept them for who they are and all that they do, even when they show the worst of their flaws?
That’s what Shauna has to decide, and to understand her dilemma, the story takes us back to the moment she met Colm, then dances, sometimes a sexy slow shuffle, sometimes a merry jig, sometimes a maelstrom of a tango, through the chapters of their life together… until the music stops and we find out whether that girl who once fell in love at first sight, is left standing alone on the dance floor.
So what would you do if your husband slept with another woman?
Colm strolled into my life fifteen years ago. If there’s ever such a thing as love at first sight, that was it for us both.
A few weeks later we married, celebrating with those who cared, ignoring the raised eyebrows of the cynics. We knew better. This was going to be forever. The dream come true. The happy ever after.
Until it wasn’t. Because a couple of months ago everything changed. We discovered a devastating truth, one that blew away our future and forced us to revisit our past, to test the bonds that were perhaps more fragile than they seemed.
So now I ask you again, what would you do if your husband slept with another woman?
Because this is what I did.
I’m Shauna. And this is the Story of Our Life…
Shari Low writes a weekly opinion column and a Book Club page for the Daily Record. Over the years, Shari has decamped to Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York, London and LA, but now lives in Glasgow. She is married to a very laid-back guy for twenty-three years and has two athletic sons, aged 14 and 15, who think she’s fairly embarrassing, except when they need a lift somewhere.