Book Review: The Future Can’t Wait

The Future Can’t Wait, by Angelena Boden, is a story about a mother who cannot bring herself to grant her grown-up daughter independence. When the young woman, having completed her university finals, decides to cut contact with her family and move away, the mother falls apart. Her life, it seems, had been entirely predicated on ensuring her child developed into the person the mother desired as a friend and companion.

The story opens a few weeks before the daughter’s final exams. Rani is an intelligent young woman studying astro-physics and expected to achieve a first. Against her much older brother’s advice – Adam is now a doctor practicing in America – she attended her local university and continued to live in the family home under her mother’s watchful eye. Rani is of mixed race, her Iranian father having left to return to his homeland when she was young. Her British mother, Kendra, remarried David who was a highly regarded if somewhat eccentric professor. David is now retired, pursuing hobbies in his garden workshops. He has always appeared to get on well with his step-children.

When Rani starts to rebel against the many restrictions her mother has imposed, Kendra puts it down to the pressure of upcoming exams. Having been berated by her mother in the past for wearing dresses deemed unsuitable as too revealing, Rani decides to purchase loose fitting clothes and wear a headscarf. Unbeknown to her mother she is a member of the Persian Society at university where she is learning more about her heritage and has made new friends. Her mother firmly believes Rani has no interest in religion or politics and struggles to accept a side to her daughter she has not approved.

Kendra teaches GCSE psychology and has a particular interest in the development of the teenage brain. She offers her friend, Sheila, sensible advice in dealing with her children but cannot seem to accept such wisdom herself. When Rani moves to London to take up an internship the young woman ensures that her family do not have her new address. A few weeks later she deletes her email account. Unable to contact her daughter, Kendra descends into a state similar to grief. When Rani sends a letter informing her family that she is fine, doing what she wants with her life but will no longer keep in touch, Kendra becomes further unhinged.

David and Adam advise Kendra to grant Rani the time and space she needs, assuring the frantic mother that her daughter will return when she is ready. Kendra cannot accept this. She reads horoscopes, contacts psychics, purchases tarot cards, and phones premium phone lines that promise help in finding missing persons. She runs up debts in her quest to find a reason for her daughter’s defection other than her own dominating behaviour.

David bears the brunt of his wife’s spiral into cognitive dissonance and addiction. In losing control of her daughter she also loses control of herself. She has the support of David, Sheila and Adam but resents the truths they tell her. Sheila cannot understand why the previously sensible Kendra has become so obsessed by charlatans and woo woo practitioners:

“What do you want them to do? Tell you where Rani is so you can drag her home by the hair?”

David is upset at the large amounts of money Kendra is wasting, unable to comprehend how she can believe these people can help when it is her behaviour that drove Rani away:

“I’ve watched how you’ve over involved yourself in her life. Telling her what to wear, organising her study times even at university, vetting her friends.”

The loving mother who coddled and smothered her daughter now starts to neglect her other child. Adam is making his own enquiries into his sister’s possible whereabouts but questions how much he can share with his mother who has become increasingly unstable. Kendra risks her job with her behaviour and turns to a stranger for comfort (why does she comply when a restaurant he takes her to demands that she hand over her phone?). Even when David becomes ill she berates him for not doing more to act in a way he has never done because now this would suit her.

In a country-wide climate of growing fear over terrorism Kendra is concerned that her daughter may have become radicalised. When the police suggest the same she rages against the accusation. Despite being desperate to find her daughter she ignores a photograph that could be of Rani and therefore offer a potential lead – she is concerned that the police are making racist assumptions. When Sheila suggests that she turn to social media to see if Rani’s friend network can help, Kendra rejects this sensible suggestion as she does not consider it to be her thing. When a couple of Rani’s friends approach Kendra in town she frightens them away with her erratic behaviour.

I read this book wanting to shake some sense into Kendra. We do not own our children and a mother’s job is to prepare their offspring for survival away from the nest. Kendra’s idea of love appeared to be focused on being loved herself.

The study of addiction, grief and denial were interesting facets in what is an intense and emotional tale. The synopsis of the book describes it as a ‘gripping story of a mother’s love for her daughter’ and in reviewing it I recognise how harsh I have been. As a mother I cannot imagine the pain of having one of my children sever all contact. Kendra’s story may well resonate with those whose children are more like rebellious Rani than the ever supportive Adam. I did wonder at the ongoing relationship Kendra would have with Adam’s partner given her apparent need to influence offspring’s behaviour.

My lack of sympathy doubtless stems from my own parental relationships – we bring to each book we read our personal experiences. This is a powerfully written and engaging story that could feed much interesting discussion. I applaud the author’s ability to generate strong feelings in her readers.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane.

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Author Interview: Angelena Boden

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Today I am once again delighted to welcome Angelena Boden to my blog. Angelena is the author of ‘The Cruelty of Lambs’, which I review here.

1. You have done what so many writers dream of and had your novel published. How have you found this experience?

Writing The Cruelty of Lambs was in part a cathartic exercise. Being a survivor of psychological abuse I felt I was using my main character’s voice to express repressed feelings. I finished the first draft very quickly, writing for 4 hours every morning. It was the endless drafting and redrafting that was the really hard work!

2. Urbane require collaboration with authors in marketing their books. Has this worked out as you expected?

I have over 30 years of running my own business and collaboration with partners has been critical to its success. I think the days of authors handing over their creation to publishers and sitting back while the money rolls in are long gone. Urbane is ultimately in the driving seat but I’ve been working hard to raise the discovery of the book through social media, bringing on board my own PR consultant for TV contacts and proactively putting my story out there. As a professional trainer and presenter, I am already getting offers to talk on coercive control, a hidden form of domestic abuse.

3. Have you done many live author events and, if so, do you enjoy them?

I’ve got a book launch at Waterstones in Birmingham on November 23rd thanks to local contacts – the book is set in Birmingham – a signing in my current home town of Malvern on December 7th , one in Bakewell, where I grew up on Monday November 21st and one next January in Ludlow, Shropshire. I was interviewed on Sky Sunrise on Nov 12th which was a great experience. I hope for many more. My book is not only a gripping read, so say the reviewers, but also raises awareness about an issue people don’t want to admit exists.

4. What is your approach to the on line reviews of your book?

I wrote a recent blog piece about how to handle reviews (link here). I am grateful for people who have given up a few hours of their time to read the book and accept their opinions. I don’t engage in dialogue. If they are negative but have something useful to add to my learning then I take it on board.

5. When asked what you do, do you describe yourself as a writer?

I’ve had a fabulous career as an international trainer until I semi- retired aged 60. These days I do on line coaching and counselling for people who are struggling to make sense of their lives and of course writing but in answer to your question, to call myself an author is …. Well I have to pinch myself! It’s my childhood dream come true.

6. Are you going to do this again – is there another novel in the pipeline?

My second book is finished and has just come back from beta readers. It’s called The Future Can’t Wait and tackles another gritty topic that is swept under the carpet and yes… controversial as well. I hope to keep writing until I drop!

Where my readers can find you

Website:  angelenaboden.com

Twitter: The Cruelty of Lambs (@AngelenaBoden)

Facebook: bodenangelena

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Angelena Boden has spent over thirty years training, coaching and counselling in the field of interpersonal conflict and communication. As a linguist, she has lived and worked overseas, travelled extensively and spent periods in Iran where she learned Farsi.

She is the author of three business books, published by Management Pocketbooks Ltd and is a freelance journalist.

A former resident and graduate of Birmingham, the setting for The Cruelty of Lambs, she is a passionate defender of a city she believes is misunderstood.

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The Cruelty of Lambs is published by Urbane Publications and is available to buy now.

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Book Reviews – Guest Post by Angelena Boden

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Today I am delighted to welcome Angelena Boden to my blog. Angelena is the author of ‘The Cruelty of Lambs’, which I review here. As a book blogger I was interested to read this author perspective on book reviews. I will be posting my interview with Angelena tomorrow.

You’ve agonised over plot, characters and dialogue, driving your household or friends crazy as you divert conversations away from them and back to your book: your wonderful debut novel which you are sure is going to reach great heights. Dreams of Hollywood fill your star-gazing moments.

Your family indulges you, oohing and ahhing over your opening paragraph, then express amazement when you tell them you’ve written 80,000 words. ‘But it’s so hard to get a publisher these days,’ they say with a smirk and a wave of insecurity hits you. A year’s work or more could be all for nothing. ‘Well, I can self-publish,’ you hit back. Millionaires are made on the back of a 99 cent erotic thriller.’

Whichever way you go with your book, traditional, independent or self-publishing you will have to face the day when that great creation you’ve given a painful birth to, nurtured and had to let go to find its own place in the wider world. That is unless you are happy to simply store it under the bed for secret readings in the early hours.

Who knows, it might be discovered when the kids are clearing out the house and it wins a cheeky posthumous award and they fight over the resulting royalties.

Most debut authors fear negative reviews. It’s like starting your first job and being shredded during an appraisal. Self-doubt creeps in, fragile egos get massacred and recently printed pages of that second novel get tossed in the air.

When The Cruelty of Lambs hit the marketplace there’s no denying I was nervous. I’ve been in a creative business long enough to know that not everybody likes or wants your product. As writers we have to accept that. Reviews are like a one way missile. Sensible authors don’t retaliate or demand from the reviewer a blow by blow account of why they didn’t like it.

Reviewers not only provide a valuable service to potential readers but also to authors. I appreciate the time a reviewer has taken to read my novel and the careful crafting of their response to it. If there is something in there I can use for future books then even better. A criticism might sting for a minute or two but it won’t throw me into despair or an emotional breakdown. Quite the reverse. As Hillary Clinton said recently, Anger isn’t a plan.

A plan should be to keep improving and polishing your craft, learning from more experienced authors and write, write, write. It’s tough. It’s a marathon not a sprint and no matter how much work you put into it, it’s guaranteed that a percentage of the reading public might not like it.

So, what should you do if you get a bad review?

In a word, nothing. It’s still a review. Focus on the positive ones. Definitely don’t rush to a social media site to complain! Remember why you write. Many of us are driven to put fingertips to keyboard.

Those words are busting to come out. Make sure they are not loaded with poisoned arrows at reviewers who have been kind enough to give up a few hours of their day to focus on your work. It’s not personal even if it feels like it.

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The Cruelty of Lambs is published by Urbane Publications and is available to buy now.

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Book Review: The Cruelty of Lambs

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The Cruelty of Lambs, by Angelena Boden, is a challenging contemporary thriller, dealing as it does with the insidious effects of domestic abuse. The protagonist is a middle aged musician who has been forced to step down from his teaching job at a school following allegations, subsequently withdrawn, of sexual misconduct with pupils. His wife blames him for the difficulties her business is now facing citing the stress and financial cost of supporting him while he fought to clear his name.

Una Carrington is a controlling woman, damaged from her own upbringing but unable to shoulder responsibility for any failures on her part. She has built a successful business that enables her to fly around the world. She has little interest in her two children and keeps them at a distance. She takes out her frustrations on her husband, Iain Millar, a quiet soul who is happiest when playing his beloved cello.

Iain is spiralling into depression. The emptiness and minimalist decor of his sterile home are at odds with the warmth and clutter in which he was raised. He misses his children. The eldest, a son from his first marriage which fell apart when he was unfaithful, is working abroad. The younger two are away at boarding school thanks to a trust fund set up by his father. With his wife constantly haranguing him for being out of work he suffers debilitating stress along with the physical abuse she inflicts when he will not do as she demands. He starts to hear voices in his head telling him to harm her.

Una turns to men she meets on business trips and in bars to try to shore up her diminishing reserves of confidence. She blames Iain with his peace loving compliance, which she regards as weakness, for forcing her to behave in this way. Iain has the support of his good friend, Fergus, a rough diamond out of his depth when it comes to other’s marital issues. Fergus can see what is going on in Iain’s life but feels powerless when his friend will not admit to the extent of the issues he is trying to deal with.

The story plays out over a six month period. It is told in snapshots of key incidents taking the reader inside the minds of both the unstable Una and the increasingly agitated Iain. These are uncomfortable places to be. The details of what exactly is happening remains murky. Iain’s valuable, heritage cello becomes a fixation for Una’s neurotic behaviour. She resents the comfort he finds in music, and that it enables him to shut her out. Friends and family circle the unhappy couple, feeling helpless as they each descend physically and psychologically.

Whilst in places this is a bleak, disturbing tale, the known prevalence of domestic abuse makes it an important issue for all to consider. Marriage is a complex institution, especially when children are involved. Despite Una’s cruelty, the author allows for a degree of sympathy. Having been drawn into Iain’s dilemma I was apprehensive about how his story would end. This is a page turner, but not one for the trepidatious.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane.

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