It’s not very often that I review a book ahead of publication – I usually join the party a little later – but from the moment my advance copy of The Rest of Me by Katie Marsh dropped through the letterbox, I’ve really struggled to stop myself from reading it. I finally gave in to temptation this week – The Rest of Me is published for kindle this Thursday, 14th June, by Hodder & Stoughton, in paperback on 26th July, and available for pre-order. If you’ve read and loved Katie Marsh’s previous books as I have – you can read my review of A Life Without You here, of This Beautiful Life here – I promise that you’re going to love this one every bit as much as I did. And if you haven’t read her books before… go on, you know you really want to…
Alex Fox knows there are lots of things she should be.
She should be the perfect wife to her chronically ill husband Sam, and the perfect mother to their two daughters. She should be excelling in her high-stress job. And she should be completing the demanding to-do lists she makes to keep herself on track.
Even if, just sometimes, she doesn’t have time to breathe.
When Sam’s condition worsens and Alex donates a kidney to save his life, her carefully scheduled existence starts to unravel – eventually forcing her to face up to a past that she has buried for years.
As the family she has fought so hard for threatens to fall apart, can Alex finally confront the mistakes that have shaped her – and rediscover what is most important in life?
The Rest of Me is an emotional and uplifting story which will make you laugh, cry and hug the people you love a little bit tighter.
Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes, Lucy Dillon and Amanda Prowse.
I’ve said it before, but I really think it’s worth saying again – Katie Marsh has a gift for dealing with emotion in her writing that I’ve rarely experienced elsewhere. As I immersed myself in the lives of Alex, Sam and their two perfectly drawn daughters – the wonderful Izzy with her big heart and passion for football, fourteen year old Jenna causing all the problems hormonal teenagers frequently do – I acquired a strange lump in my throat that never really went away. There’s something both acutely uncomfortable and absolutely compelling about watching a family slowly falling apart, their problems piling on top of each other, as you hope beyond hope that everything will turn around and bring happiness for a cast of characters that very quickly grab you by the heart.
This isn’t a book filled with fireworks and unexpected twists – it’s a slow unspooling of a set of circumstances and a coming to terms with important events of the past and their impact on the present, and those many curveballs that life has a tendency to throw. I don’t want to say too much about the story, but its central theme absolutely broke my heart – children can be so desperately cruel, their very real problems so difficult to talk about, adults often too busy and caught up in issues of their own. Alex’s workplace experience too, with its resonances from her past, was quite perfectly handled – a strong woman who finds herself wrong-footed, unable to cope, events overtaking her and struggling to cope against a backdrop of a disintegrating marriage and relationship with her family.
I loved the relationships in this book – the glimpses into the past and the secrets carefully kept hidden, the whole slowly revealed background to Alex’s relationship with sister Lucy, the support of best friend Tasia. And I particularly loved the relationship between Alex and husband Sam – and I thought the very real issues brought about by a long-term illness and its effect on the nature of a relationship were exceptionally well done, authentic and recognisable.
The writing itself is simply wonderful. Alex’s own voice predominates, as we share her thoughts and feelings, sitting with her as she recognises her mistakes and omissions, sympathising with her and understanding – if not always agreeing – with her actions and decisions. But the voice that perhaps has the greater impact is that of young Izzy – the simple account of life through the eyes of a child, her joy and passion, her desperate sadness, totally appropriate in tone and content, very funny and heartbreakingly sad by turn, and quite beautifully imagined and written. And as well as the two distinct voices, there are the lists – Alex’s way of managing life, from life’s practicalities to its biggest challenges, with inclusions that make you smile and others that touch you to the heart.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere the way that the author has the ability to surprise with a scene or passage that just stuns you with its impact – this book is full of them, as you find yourself unexpectedly and disconcertingly tearing up shortly after smiling at something that went before. And please don’t get the impression that this book is unremittingly sad and earnest – it really isn’t, with plenty to lift your heart, flood you with warmth, and fill your heart with joy. The whole is perfectly balanced, beautifully handled, and inspiring and uplifting in its outcome. I absolutely loved it.
About the author
Katie lives in London with her family. Before being published she worked in healthcare, and her novels are inspired by the bravery of the people she met in hospitals and clinics across the country. Her first novel My Everything is a 2018 World Book Night pick, and her second A Life Without You was a huge e-book bestseller.
She loves strong coffee, the promise of a blank page and stealing her husband’s toast. When not writing, she spends her time fruitlessly pursuing her children in various local parks.