Shari Low ponders the question that prompted her new novel, This Is Me.
My books invariably come from a question that pops up in my mind and sticks there; one that there’s no clear answer to. In With Or Without You, the dilemma rose from whether someone should stay or go when it feels like something is missing in a relationship. With The Story Of Our Life, I wanted to explore what happens when the happy ever after is gone, and ask if there’s ever an excuse for infidelity.
The storyline for This Is Me also began with a question. Who is more important, your partner or your children?
The story focuses on two women, Denise and her estranged daughter Claire.
Chapter one opens with a funeral – Denise’s husband Ray has died suddenly at the age of 56. Denise and Ray married when they were sixteen and Denise was already pregnant with Claire. Over the years, they built a wealthy, comfortable life together, but one thing that never changed was Denise’s absolute devotion to Ray. He was her entire world, and when it came down to a choice between Ray or her children, she chose him, every time.
Claire, on the other hand, is now the mother of two teenagers. Her childhood with Ray and Denise shaped her view of motherhood and she has taken the opposite path, making her sons the centre of her life, sacrificing everything, including her marriage, along the way. Now her boys are leaving home and Claire knows she must start living for herself instead of her family.
Two women, both alone, both facing new chapters in their life. But which one of them will find happiness?
As always, I hope readers will connect with the story and that it will make them think about their own lives. I’m definitely in Claire’s category – my children are the most important people in my life. Thankfully, my husband feels the same. However, it does make me wonder what I’m going to do later this year when both my sons will have left home at the terrifyingly young ages of sixteen and seventeen, off to chase their dreams.
The prospect of this has made a whole new question pop into my mind and stick there. How does this mum adapt to an empty house after many years of teenage bedlam? I’ve no idea. But I can feel another book coming on.
This is… Denise.
Married to Ray, her first and only love, Denise has never for one moment regretted putting the husband she idolised on a pedestal above everyone and everything else. But, after forty years of marriage, he is gone, leaving Denise to discover that their perfect marriage was fatally flawed. Now she faces a future alone, but first she must face the betrayals of the past.
This is… Claire.
The estranged daughter of Denise, the woman who put her husband before her children, Claire took the opposite path and devoted her life to raising her family, sacrificing her marriage along the way. With her teenage sons about to flee the nest, she realises she may have left it too late to find her own happy ever after.
This is the story of two women, both alone, both cautionary tales of one of motherhood’s biggest decisions.
Who is more important, your partner or your children? And what happens if you make the wrong choice?
Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of more than 20 novels, including One Day In December, A Life Without You, The Story Of Our Life and With Or Without You. And because she likes to over-share toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers. This Is Me was published by Aria on May 2nd.