Just an Odd Job Girl
I have known Imogens all my working life; women in their middle years with varying circumstances. Through death or divorce some have no partner. Others are married, happy or otherwise. But the husband is working and the children grown and gone. An empty nest is not enough. They are treading water by keeping busy with house and garden. Suddenly life seems finite and infinitely more precious for being so.
Wondering what to do, they realise over the decades they lost who they were. They consider getting back to work, or volunteering, which let’s face it, is work without pay. But they are useless. What can they do?
The fact they managed a home for years, often on a shoestring; marshalling their brood like a one woman army: general, peacekeeper, chauffeur, educator, charwoman, laundress, chief cook and bottle-washer; that they balanced budgets with the deftness of a corporate executive, counts for nothing in their eyes.
Imogen is a woman coming out of mid-life crisis. Her kids are gone, as is her husband. His mid-life crisis meant an affair with a younger woman and now there’s a baby on the way. Her pregnant rival has her eye on Imogen’s house, and life. Imogen really needs to do the decent thing and make herself scarce.
So there’s the inevitable divorce and settlement; a new little house, big enough for one, and enough money to live on. All generously done: like any redundancy package. Maybe Imogen’s husband wonders what more she needs?
How about a life?
In any healthy person, grief, whatever the cause, bereavement or betrayal, eventually ebbs. You see it wasn’t your fault and there is no reason for moping, comfort eating, letting yourself go, or hiding away. You start to take stock, wondering, what’s next? But you’re scared.
Imogen thinks a job might fill the empty days. But her confidence is at rock bottom. I mean, what can she do?
With courage in both hands she takes the first step and goes to a small local temping agency advertised in the paper. Dressed in the last decent outfit she can squeeze into, Imogen is shown into the boss’s office.
He seems pleasant; genuinely interested. But that’s his job isn’t it: assessing the suitability of candidates. To make her feel at ease he asks: Tell me about your work experience. Imogen hesitates. The last time she worked was before she married. That’s a good place to start, he re-assures her.
* * *
One of my favourite types of novel is a bildungsroman. It is a posh word for a coming of age book where a youngster grows by overcoming challenges and facing responsibilities.
So what’s that to do with a middle-aged woman?
I’ll tell you.
Only by reacquainting herself with the girl she was, can Imogen leave the recent past and become the woman she is in her own right. Not a wife, not a mother; Imogen.
I admit I am prejudiced when it comes to Sally Cronin. This is the third of her books I have read and reviewed. Each and every one has been a delight. However, this is my favourite.
Sally Cronin skilfully plays emotions like a virtuoso, drawing the reader into characters’ lives; making them part of you. It is written with her usual lean elegant prose and easy readability. There is a host of likeable warm characters; witty turns of phrase and comic situations that leave you smiling or laughing out loud.
As a woman of mid-life, finding her feet, most of us readily identify with Imogen, if not for ourselves, then maybe because our loved ones have been through something similar; while, heart-broken, we helplessly watched them struggle and prayed they would not fail.
In an entertaining light-hearted way, and without a hint of preaching, Sally Cronin gives valuable life lessons with Imogen. And in the end makes Imogen’s triumphs our own.
I started out saying I met many Imogens in my life. I will end by saying it is nice to finally meet the original. I feel like I have a new friend.
This is a highly recommended and unputdownable read. It is light enough for the bus to work, lounging by a pool on holiday or even with your morning coffee and guilty biscuit.
Out of FIVE STARS I give it…
FIVE STARS PLUS