Thirty-eight weeks today. It doesn’t seem real, while at the same time it definitely feels like the pregnancy should be over and done with. This last month has been the most challenging and the most incredible period of time for so many different (and completely […]
The collected works of Liane Moriarty, Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl;it seems as though the past few years the genre of domestic thrillers was born thanks to some truly epic female authors. I don’t quite know what it is about these types of books, but there is something about them that I simply cannot go past when it comes time for me to buy a whole new haul of books. There is something so deliciously erotic about this new sub-genre that has captured a huge audience over the past few years and, whatever the formula is for these stories, it is a winner.
I hadn’t heard of A Simple Favour before interviews with Anna Kendricks and Blake Lively started popping up all over the internet as they kicked off the press run for their movie of the same name. I love both of those actresses and the trailer was good and then I learned that it was a novel before a movie (of course it was) and that was it, I knew I had to read it.
Overall, I did enjoy this book, yes, however there were a few things that I felt a tad underwhelmed by. But more on that in a bit.
“She’s your best friend.
She knows all your secrets.
That’s why she’s so dangerous.
A single mother’s life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller. It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.
But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.
Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.”
From the blurb, A Simple Favour has all the promise of a truly gripping mystery/thriller and it is what made me want to dive into this book immediately. What I liked about this book is that I had no idea what to expect. The disappearance of Emily was sudden and unexplained and left me conjuring so many possibilities as to what could have made her run away from her life. I also appreciated that the ‘action’ started almost immediately – the disappearance takes place quite early on in the book and the remaining characters are left scrambling to figure things out.
What I found though was that the blurb offered more bark than bite. And, although I loved that we were thrown into disarray with Emily’s disappearance so early on, it meant that the characters were (extremely) undercooked. Yes, we are given shallow insights into their pasts and all of their secrets but there isn’t enough time in the book before everything kicks off to develop any real emotional connections with any of the characters. I can’t say too much without spoiling some of the story, but the secrets that each of them have weren’t that shocking to me either. Maybe my resolve has become hardened by all of the books of this genre that I have read, or maybe I am just used to all the awful shit that happens in real life that I read or hear about on the news – but what the two main characters claim to be their darkest secrets weren’t all that shocking to me. At all.
I am also someone who loves being kept guessing until the very end, until the very most absolute last moment. I felt that the explanation of Emily’s disappearance came too quickly in the story and found that after it was uncovered, I found myself far less interested in the characters and the story itself. When the main elements of the mystery were revealed I found that I was able to predict and piece together the rest pretty easily and quickly.
It was a simple read and much like books of the same vein, even though the characters lacked for me, there is still that mysterious, dark element that keeps you turning every page. A Simple Favour is one of those books that you enjoy while you are reading it and would probably recommend to a friend because it is entertaining and easy to dive into. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I really want to because, maybe for the first time ever, I think you could do a lot more with the story than with what is written in the book.
So, today I learned another thing about pregnancy: doing the Bay Walk in thirty degree heat will, in fact, lead to pretty severe heat stroke.
Let me back up a bit – after swimming at Balmoral Beach the other day, although using those muscles I haven’t used in months meant I was aching the whole day after, I felt absolutely incredible. After the swim it really dawned on me how strong, fit, healthy and physically ready I want to be for the birth of my son.
This morning, Pete got out of bed early to do some work in the garage before it got too hot and my thinking was that while he worked, I would take myself on my favourite walk. It was still pretty early in the day and the Bay Walk is along the water and I wanted to feel good and move my body and be outdoors.
There was no breeze today, none.
The morning seemed to bring with it about three extra degrees every time I took a step.
Little man has dropped further into position, readying himself for birth, which means that he is extremely heavy.
And my fingers swelled to the point where there was no space in between them and I could barely hold my phone in my fat grip.
I got about halfway around the seven kilometre walk and thought to myself, “I can’t do this.” My breathing was laboured and the amount of energy that it took to carry me each step I doubted could last for another three and a bit kilometres. I focused on my breathing and pictured the feeling or the air conditioning hitting my face once I made it (hopefully) back to my car. I took slower steps and kept at that pace while my feet started to swell in my shoes. The sun was relentless as I realised how little shade there is along the Bay Walk.
Whenever people ask me how I am handling summer and the heat so far the best way that I have managed to describe it is that it feels as though I am hot from the inside out. That sentence could not have been more true today as I trudged slowly along the walk while trying to remain positive and breathe and remind myself that I am doing something good and active and healthy for me and my child.
Strangely though, I wasn’t sweating. My organs felt as though they had melted and evaporated, but I wasn’t perspiring.
Eventually I made it back to my car – swollen, disorientated and thirsty – and it was only once I sat down and started driving that the sweat started pouring from every single part of my body. On the walk, my face got re-burnt and was luminescent and glowing fro the heat. I looked an absolute treat. When I got to the cafe, Mum took one look at me and said, “Let me get you some iced water,” which I downed, and then another and another. I sat down and tried to breathe slowly to try and regulate my temperature, but as I began to cool down (marginally), I realised how faint and nauseas and ill I felt (and still feel as I type this).
It was too hot for me to be out there today.
Yesterday morning I did the grocery shopping and meandered around the shopping centre for a little bit. When I got home, I made Pete and I breakfast and conceded that it was too hot for me to do anything outdoors. Today is the same. I knew that it was already too late in the day and too hot for me to do a walk, let alone a seven kilometre one, but I can’t help but feel a little out of sorts. It’s summer and normally I would be relaxing with my friends and family over cocktails and cheeseboards and spending my time in the sun, but that just isn’t possible. And more than that, it’s dangerous. I feel so fatigued from the walk and so nauseas that once again, I have been usurped of all of my energy – and what little energy I have I am using to stay awake and type this.
I’m still not used to the fact that I can’t do even the simple things that I am used to doing. And to be honest, even though I have zero energy and being out in the sun just is not an option, I feel guilty and lazy to just be sitting and trying to stay cool. And I know that that is ridiculous, I need to keep myself safe and hydrated and rested for Bub, but I can’t help but feel that I should be doing something – cleaning, baking, writing, anything!
I feel awful that I put myself in the position that I did today. I wanted to prove to myself and to Pete that I was doing all of the right things – I was exercising and keeping fit and doing everything I can to look and feel like myself again. Instead, I feel awful. I feel sick and I put myself in danger. It may seem as though I am being morose or dramatic, but I cannot stress to you fellow pregnant mamas how important it is to completely surrender at this stage. I need to take that advice as well. Nothing will fit you properly, your swimmers will look foreign on your beautiful, plump body, you will be desperate to feel like yourself again, you will want to do all of the things that you normally do, you will be well and truly over feeling heavy and hot, and you will feel unattractive and as if you are a stranger to yourself. Or maybe you won’t feel any of those things. But I do, and I promise you that the only thing to do is to make peace with the fact that you are in the final stages of growing an ENTIRE human – do you know how fucking boss that is? So what if my legs have lost some of their muscles, I know that I will get it back when Bub is born. So what if I can’t go and go and go all day, soon enough I will be back at work and wishing that I had some downtime. And yeah, so what if I spend a few minutes lusting over my clothes aching to be able to wear them once more.. in just over a month, I will be able to.
So I implore you – look beyond what your ego is demanding of you. Be healthy and stay fit in whatever way your body allows you to. For me, I think that means swimming in our family friend’s pool and retreating to the shade (and then repeating nine or ten times).
I was insanely excited to read this book; as soon as I learned of its existence, I was intrigued. Non-fiction, autobiographies and memoirs are not something that I read often, nor are they what I enjoy reading (which sometimes I think is a bit strange seeing as I only write non-fiction, autobiographical, memoir-y kind of posts), but there was definitely something about My Thoughts Exactly that made me purchase it, even when doubt started to creep in.
Before I started reading it, I will admit that I was scared that I was going to be as underwhelmed and uninterested as I have been with previous forays into the non-fiction literary world. I was tentative.
As soon as I began reading it, I knew that I was going to be pleasantly surprised (that’s an understatement really). I absolutely loved the voice of Lily Allen. I loved the simplicity of her words and that never, not once, did she give any more information than absolutely necessary. Her stories were her stories and nothing more – she didn’t ever need to beef them out with random details or filler fluff. And that is what I have never liked about biographical works; I don’t like being treated as a simple reader that can’t follow emotional syntax and experiences. More often than not, when I have tried to read biographies they are either too detail-orientated or too self-centred. Now I realise that as a autobiography it will be about someone and yes, will be centred around them, but there is a certain amount of story-telling needed rather than just “I did this, I felt that,” etc. etc. Ya feel me?
Anyway, I digress.
My Thoughts Exactly provides an honest, raw and uninhibited foray into the world of Lily Allen. Even though her experiences, lifestyle and childhood are so far removed from anything that I have ever known it didn’t stop me being able to connect with them at all. In fact, I was able to really empathise with her because instead of talking about the experience itself (private jets, drugs, a pretty full on stalker, famous parents, a deeply upsetting stillbirth etc.), Allen looked inward and spoke mainly of how she interacted with the world around her. The entire book felt like a really big, powerful and very emotional letting go for Lily Allen – and it made me really envious that she was able to write and publish so freely everything that has made her the woman she is today – scars, mistakes, flaws and all.
I also loved that she remained incredible humble whilst also acknowledging her success. She spoke frankly about her achievements, many of which I was unaware of, but didn’t rattle on about them. She spoke of them matter-of-factly which I respect immensely. It allowed me to continue to connect with her words throughout the book, no matter the grand nature of her dalliances. Another thing that really surprised me was the understanding I felt around her drug use. I am not comfortable with drug use, at all. I don’t like hearing about it, knowing about it or thinking about it. For me, there is just something about drugs that triggers fear in me, and that has always been the case. For a majority of her adult life, Allen struggled with substance abuse – both alcohol and drugs. But once again, the stories were told with such delicacy and instead of focusing on the event itself, Allen instead used this book to explain the ‘why’. I love her introspection and her knowledge of self and the fact that every one of her decisions, behaviour and actions has reason behind it – not an excuse, but a reason.
I have, for a very long time, longed to write something autobiographical detailing my own experiences, mistakes and flaws (again, I realise how weird it is that I want to write non-fiction but don’t like reading it) and My Thoughts Exactly has only fed that want and desire. What I really gained from Allen’s book is that there is such confidence and strength in vulnerability. Imagine how light and free you would feel if all of your deepest, darkest secrets, thoughts and feelings were out there in the world. To me, that would be everything. To embrace that fear, to lay everything out there and to completely surrender to whatever comes next would just be so utterly liberating. Lily Allen admits to sleeping with female escorts, to cheating on her husband, to being the person someone cheated with, to the mistakes she has made as a mother – she has written about things that are so deeply intimate and personal and most of the time that are kept to oneself. What she has done though, is started a conversation. Through her vulnerability and her willingness to be judged and ridiculed and mocked, she has also allowed for her mistakes to be held by the masses – I am certain that she is not the only one who has made one or all of these mistakes.
Overall, My Thoughts Exactly utterly entranced me. I felt like I was listening to a friend tell me a story for the entire time I was reading it. Dealing with some pretty heavy issues including a traumatic miscarriage and stillbirth, Lily Allen has been able to bring these experiences to a whole new audience in a way that is accessible, sensitive and intelligent. I loved this book and would highly recommend. Highly.