Saturday, October 24, 2009
Jumping In Puddles
JUMPING IN PUDDLES
It’s not so very long ago that I was a single mum. Nick was working in England and I was in South Derry, in a farmhouse with no running drinking water, and four children under the age of four. It was a most depressing time in our marriage, especially during the dark winter evenings when the children were pinned down and sleeping. My own father often offered to babysit, so I could get out of the house, to go to the gym or to visit my sisters. But I was too worn out to do normal things and to face ‘normal people’. My world revolved round the needs of four children, and the relentless, endless grind of mothering them.
What I needed was a support group - people who understood how lonely it is to be alone, in the middle of the night, when a child is calling and there’s only you to answer. Who understood how desperate you feel when a child is sick and there’s only you to do the nursing. Who understood how stressful it is to have to explain over and over, that Daddy isn’t going to be home for the birthday party, the school play, the swimming gala…
Jumping in Puddles by Claire Allan is the story of such a support group which brings together four lone parents in a small rural village in County Donegal.
There’s rich widow Niamh whose perfect life has come crashing down round her ears. Her perfect husband has got himself killed in a road traffic accident and since his death her perfect friend Caitlin is no longer returning her calls. Niamh’s grief has turned in on itself – she’s furious, angry, out of control...
There’s downtrodden, kind hearted Ruth. She was married to James until he ran off with a younger woman, leaving her penniless with three children, and the teenager daughter is poisonous. Ruth is ready for a new lease of life for James was a control freak and she’s better off without him.
Liam is the cuckolded husband whose wife has run off with James. Of course he didn’t want to join a Looney Lone Parent’s support group – he’s a builder, he’s a man, he doesn’t talk about his feelings – but his mother has bullied him into it.
And finally there’s a teenage mum, Ciara. Ciara is finding it difficult to reveal the name of her baby’s father because the boy in question has made it clear he’s not going to accept responsibility for his actions and has instead been spreading unkind and untrue rumours that Ciara sleeps around.
These four have very little in common and their first few meetings are stiff. Until they go on a charmingly described Halloween excursion to Derry city, to see the fireworks together. Everyone dresses up, the festival atmosphere fizzes off the page. By the end of trip the ice is broken and they begin to make friends. And to offer genuine support when Niamh discovers her perfect friend was having an affair with her perfect husband. And to provide practical assistance when Ruth’s ex-husband returns to intimidate her and to hit her again.
Claire Allan is from Derry. She works as a journalist, is a mother of two, and writes novels when she gets time in the evenings. Claire has a real talent for successfully tackling difficult, challenging subjects such as domestic abuse with warmth and gentle humour.
VERDICT: I really loved the Lone Looney Parents. I wanted to invite them over to my house for tea and buns and a chat.