Together, Again (2022)
Sisters Jolene, Marsha and Annis have convened at Fox House, their childhood home, following the death of their mother, the spiky Eleanor Vamplew. Born seven years apart, the women have never bonded and are more strangers than sisters but they must work together to arrange a funeral their mother would be proud of.
Jolene, the eldest, is a successful romantic novelist who writes templates of beautiful relationships even though her marriage to the handsome and charming Warren is complicated. She fears she has turned into her cold, emotionless mother. But has she – or has she just learned to separate herself into two in order to function?
Marsha, the neglected middle child, has put every bit of her energy into her work, hoping to earn the coveted validation from her parents who wanted a boy, not another girl. Now she is home and the man who broke her young, lonely heart has been forced back into her life. But can she finally bear to close that door and open another for a new, unexpected love?
Annis, the youngest, is the renegade, who left home aged sixteen and never returned, not even for the death of their beloved father, Julian. Until now. But why did Eleanor Vamplew recently change her will to leave everything to this daughter she has refused to mention for fifteen years, the one she considered a wretched accident?
In the three weeks between Eleanor’s death and her funeral truths are uncovered, lies are exposed… but maybe some secrets are best kept.
I was talking to a lady at an event about how her mother used to ‘lend her out’ to her boyfriends when she was a young girl and yet she still loved her mother, despite leaving home as soon as she could and never seeing her again. It made me realise how complex some families are, our feelings do not always fit into pigeon holes, they snag and knot. And my story is relevant to this age where appearance is all and shiny veneers cover a lot of underlying rot.
Families are not always cosy, marriages are often bumpy, some parents are rubbish at the job, some children have miserable childhoods. If you are going to write from real life, as I do, you accept that these are the realities for some people. And when a death occurs of a big family figure, there is sometimes an earthquake of sorts as forced reverence conflicts with resentful feelings. I already starting getting letters about this book before it was out on the shelves. It will touch nerves, I also hope that it gives out the message that everything can be overcome and the past should stay there and not blot the future.
This is a fucked-up family par excellence, they are square pegs that have never found their round holes. Is it too late to reverse the damage? Don’t expect me to shy away from what happens out there in the cold, hard world.
It’s already dividing opinion. Some think it’s not in my usual style – it is, it’s just weighted less towards the comedy – all my books are hard-hitting in their way. I don’t write to please individual readers, I write what is inside me waiting to come out. Life sometimes is dark and hard and I wanted to write a book that packed a punch for my 20th, this is the one I have wanted to write for a long time. It’s deep and emotional but ride with that, I ask you. The reviews that are good are really good and I couldn’t be more delighted about that. This review sums it up – from Pam Norfolk at the Lancashire Evening Post. She ‘gets’ me every time and this was what I needed to hear (if it doesn’t come up automatically type ‘together again’ in the search bar, top left).
In saying that, I hope you love the blossoming of my women, their growing love, support and understanding for each other and the power of kindness, because there is a lot of that in this book. And how the skill of reading is a fundamental one much undervalued.
As ever, when I tackle a heavy subject, I counterbalance it with a light hand where appropriate and I hope you enjoy the wonderful men in my story, and rejoice at my girls strengthening and also their softening.