It is summer on Magnolia Road when Juliet moves into her late mother’s house with her husband Liam and their young son, Charlie. Preoccupied by guilt, grief and the juggle of working motherhood, she can’t imagine finding time to get to know the neighbouring families, let alone fitting in with them. But for Liam, a writer, the morning coffees and after-school gatherings soon reveal the secret struggles, fears and rivalries playing out behind closed doors – all of which are going straight into his new novel . . .
Juliet tries to bury her unease and leave Liam to forge these new friendships. But when the rupture of a marriage sends ripples through the group, painful home truths are brought to light. And then, one sun- drenched afternoon at a party, a single moment changes everything.
EVERYONE IS STILL ALIVE is the story of several families who live on the same suburban street, all secretly struggling with the anxieties of the modern world whilst trying to maintain the illusion that everything is fine. This is a novel about guilt, grief, working motherhood, the mental load, envy, fear and status, but it’s also about love, friendship, community and how we figure out what really matters.
How would Rentzenbrink’s first foray into fiction be, would it meet all the expectations after such a well received, critically acclaimed non fiction book? I can quite categorically state that it definitely lived up to all expectations and in so many differing ways.
Firstly there was Magnolia Road, the epitome of middle class, of family homes, parents with good jobs and a sense of community, a road those on the fringes aspired to live.
Then and perhaps most importantly were the families, largely centred around Juliet, her husband Liam and son Zac.
Reclaiming Juliets mothers home after her death, Juliet was in that vulnerable grief stricken state where emotions and issues magnified, the need to be all to everyone yet always coming up short were ever present in Rentzenbrink’s narrative.
That seemed to be theme throughout, the competition to be better than the rest, to have what others had, yet finances, circumstances often the final stumbling block. I think that is why I enjoyed the novel so much, each woman Rentzenbrink featured had a little of something that resonated, Helen’s lack of confidence, of exhaustion, Lucy’s boredom of her husband. Rentzenbrink seemed to capture the varying aspects of marriage, the continual work needed, the compromise, the roles of each set, the feelings of inadequacy, the lack of passion and respect.
I think we all believe that to some degree we could have it all but Rentzenbrink , through her families showed that that just isn’t possible as one incident on one sunny day finally opened the cracks and couples, individuals had to face the truth, an inevitability that we saw on the horizon but were never sure when the author would set of the little time bomb.
It made me look back to my own marriage, my divorce, where I am now and that is what so impressed, Rentzenbrink’s ability to understand, the many angles, the recriminations from both sides. The fall outs were life changing, provoked thought, but in a way part of a healing process, of honesty and truth. The characters were made to look inward at their own actions, responses, their effect on husbands, friends and children, It gave them enlightenment, appreciation, the tools to which they could enable compromise and almost importantly change.
It was a novel that exceeded all my expectations and more, a novel of everyday families brought vividly and brilliantly to life.
I would to thank Phoenix for a copy of Everyone Is Still Alive to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Cathy Rentzenbrink grew up in Yorkshire, spent many years in London, and now lives in Cornwall. She is the SUNDAY TIMES bestselling author of THE LAST ACT OF LOVE, which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize, and the acclaimed memoirs A MANUAL FOR HEARTACHE and DEAR READER. EVERYONE IS STILL ALIVE is her first novel.