You Me Everything (2018) – Catherine Isaac

Title: You Me Everything
Author: Catherine Isaac
Date published: 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

You Me Everything (2018)  is Catherine Isaac’s debut novel that starts out like the usual ‘chick-lit’ I have read in the past, and has all the elements that constitute the usual narrative, but this does not mean that one should dismiss this novel. There is an inner depth to this story that makes it as unputdownable as David Nicholls’ One Day (2009). We are first introduced to Jess, an understated and overwhelmed single mom living in Manchester with her son William. William’s father Adam is absent. He was absent the day William was born, and he is absent now. Jess describes the day she gave birth to her son at the tender age of 22 and how everything changed for her when she realized that Adam was not going to be a feature in their lives. When Adam left it is Jess’ loving parents who helped her raise William. Both of her parents, despite having serious problems of their own both support and love Jess and William, but are still oddly fond of Adam despite his absence.

Ten years later Jess and William are on their way to France to visit Adam who has invited them to stay in the guesthouse he had bought and fixed up. William is now a ten year old boy who spends half the day playing games on his mother’s IPAD, and the other half asking questions and spewing forth all kinds of facts and random bits of information about everything under the sun. Meanwhile, Jess’s mother is tragically living with a fatal genetic disorder called Huntington’s Disease in a special care home. The symptoms of HD are very similar to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and limit the patient’s ability to reason, speak and walk. Jess is terrified that both her and her son may have inherited the disease and it is the looming fear that weighs heavily over their lives.

In France, Jess and William, along with her two best friends Natasha, the perpetual singleton and Becky, who also brings her husband and three children with, settle quite nicely into a routine of barbecues, drinking wine, lazing around the hotel pool and exploring the French countryside. In the meantime Adam is attempting to get to know his son and Jess is attempting to find a way to tell Adam about her mother and what this means for her, and for their son.

This novel is heart-breakingly beautiful. The tense relationship between Jess and Adam is made even more tragic by the fear of disease that hangs over everything good that happens. However the author manages to make the reader smile through the tears, and a silver lining appears in the form of a truce Jess and Adam are able to make.

Describing this novel as a romance would not be entirely inaccurate, even though not in the atypical sense. This is the love between a mother and her son, and between her parents. It is the unconditional love her friends have given her through all the hard times. In fact if I could pick a hero for this story it wouldn’t be Adam or William, or even Jess and her mom. It would be Jess’ father who shows time and time again in his subtle and understated way that to love unconditionally is really the only way to love.

One of the most subtly beautiful novels I have read since my Marian Keyes phase. A stunning debut and definitely worth your time and money. If you are into this sort of thing…

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