Book Review: Stepping Up by Sarah Turner

I’ve read previous books by Sarah Turner in her guise as ‘The Unmumsy Mum‘ and loved them – and I follow Sarah on social media too – so when I knew she had her first fiction book coming out, I hopped onto NetGalley and was chuffed to get an advance review copy.

Here’s the blurb:

Beth has never stuck at anything.
She’s quit more jobs and relationships than she can remember and she still sleeps in her childhood bedroom. It’s not that she hasn’t tried to grow up, it’s just that so far, the only commitment she’s held down is Friday drinks at the village pub.
Then, in the space of a morning, her world changes.
An unspeakable tragedy turns Beth’s life upside down, and she finds herself guardian to her teenage niece and toddler nephew, catapulted into an unfamiliar world of bedtime stories, parents’ evenings and cuddly elephants. Having never been responsible for anyone – or anything – it’s not long before she feels seriously out of her depth.
What if she’s simply not up to the job?
With a little help from her best friend Jory (purely platonic, of course …) and her lovely, lonely next-door neighbour, Albert, Beth is determined that this time she’s not giving up. It’s time to step up.
This is a story about digging deep for strength you never knew you had and finding magic in things that were there all along.”

I absolutely LOVED this book. All of the characters had something going for them – and you were rooting for them all, especially Beth, from the outset.

Now I knew Sarah would write about parenting a toddler brilliantly – and she did exactly that. Ted was a very believable little boy – innocent, but questioning; a distraction for everyone, but also a nightmare when he had a meltdown. In fact all of the relationships were written incredibly well – the sneaky teenager Polly – who was different with her Aunt than when she was with her Grandparents, Beth’s relationship with her parents – and with her best mate (Jory – purely platonic – apart from that one night in Winter 2015 that almost changed things……..) and the blossoming friendship with her octogenarian new neighbour Albert – who types his text messages ALL IN CAPSLOCK.

One minute you’re laughing out loud at something – the next you’re weeping – but isn’t that the sign of a brilliant book?

I loved the way that without even realising it, Beth became indispensable in a way she’d never been before – highlighted in Ted’s new bedtime routine, and how he needed Auntie Beth to put him to bed.

The scene at Polly’s parents’ evening had me giggling – a real catalogue of errors – but the relationship between Polly and Beth changed so much during the book, it was lovely, and really believable.

Sarah also wrote about grief incredibly well – and I suspect some of that is from personal experience too, as I know she lost her own Mum when she was a teenager. One bit really struck me – as it was exactly what a friend said after her son died, she hated the first New Year’s Eve because it felt like she was leaving him in the previous year and everyone else was moving on. Beth voices those same worries about the changing of the years.

There are various twists and turns as the book develops, and it doesn’t conclude in a ‘and everyone lives happily ever after’ way – but it definitely leaves you with lots of hope. I’d REALLY like to know what does happen to everyone, as I feel really invested in their lives!

The book is out in March 2022, and I would highly recommend pre ordering it – it’s fabulous.

A massive thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC – and to Sarah Turner for writing such a great book in the midst of a global pandemic and the home schooling nightmare!! It’s not often I give 5 stars on NetGalley – but I am for ‘Stepping Up’.

Book Review: The Unmumsy Mum

The Unmumsy Mum

“THIS IS NOT A PARENTING MANUAL. THIS IS REAL LIFE.

The Unmumsy Mum writes candidly about motherhood like it really is: the messy, maddening, hilarious reality, how there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and how it is sometimes absolutely fine to not know what you are doing. The lessons she’s learnt while grappling with two small boys – from birth to teething, 3am night feeds to toddler tantrums, soft play to toilet training – will have you roaring with laughter and taking great comfort in the fact that it’s definitely not just you…”

I’m not sure I’m target market for this book – as I’m already 13 years into my Mum ‘journey’ and with my ‘baby’ being 4 and a half – but I really like what The Unmumsy Mum posts on Facebook and her blog, so I downloaded it to my Kindle.

I LOVED this book.  It was laugh out loud funny at times – but also had me weeping today (the chapter where she talks about being a Mum but without her own Mum being around – it was so beautifully written and so moving. It made me think more about my husband not having his Mum around whilst we’re going through our own stab at parenthood as she passed away exactly a year before our eldest was born.).

I think this should be bought for every first time Mum so they can know what parenthood is really all about.  I was lucky that a friend had her first baby about 9 months before me – and we were very similar control freak / career girls until then – and she freely admitted the first 6 weeks were HIDEOUS.  It was such an unusually honest opinion and helped me no end – and having that written down in the public domain in a book is such a great support for people (the only book I read before having my first was Gina Ford #howstupidwasI?!).

Despite having 4 kids, I am most definitely not a mumsy mum – in fact I remember my oldest friend’s Mum being shocked when I had more than 2 kids, as apparently I was the least maternal amongst my sisters!! Therefore I empathise totally with The Unmumsy Mum lots.

The style of writing is great – and honest (and sweary – which is totally me)  Whilst it’s primarily about being the parent to small people it does cover other topics really well.  The ‘why have kids if you’re going to moan about them?’ section was excellently written.  It also  made me think a lot about comparing the sh*t you’re going through with what other people go through.  A friend recently lost her 11 year old son to a brain tumour which was utterly devastating – and hopefully something I never have to experience first hand – but I was at risk of thinking everything in my life was inconsequential compared to that – but some things, for us, are still important – and this helped me realise that, whilst still being there to support my friend and her family.

But don’t for one second think it’s all deep and meaningful!  It is brilliantly funny and, to quote The Unmumsy Mum herself, full of sh*ts and giggles – exactly like parenthood is.