EXCERPT: I couldn’t blame him for taking off. He was fourteen, and avoiding showdowns with his volatile mother would be high on his list of priorities. For a second I was tempted to follow. But I was seventy, not fourteen, and I’d be blowed if I’d let my only daughter-in-law get the better of me.
I ran a comb through my hair. Who was that old woman in the mirror, scowling back at me? Whoever she was, she was in dire need of a hairdresser. And look at all those wrinkles. There hadn’t been nearly as many a year ago.
I smoothed on my favourite lipstick, rolling my lips together with a smacking sound. Better to face the enemy with war paint on. Nevertheless, butterflies flitted about in my stomach. I perched on the side of the bed to wait. And wait. The waiting was always the worst.
ABOUT ‘ALL ABOUT ELLA’: At 70, and widowed, Ella is about to find out that blood is not always thicker than water. A wise and warm-hearted story about aging, family and community for readers of Tricia Stringer and Liz Byrski.
At 70, Ella’s world is upended, leaving her at odds with her three adult children, whose attention is fixed more firmly on her money than her ongoing welfare. After an argument with her son Anthony, she flees his Adelaide home for Cutlers Bay, a seaside town on the Yorke Peninsula. There she befriends Angie, a 40-year-old drifter, and becomes an irritant to local cop Zach. He’s keen to shift Ella off his turf, because Anthony phones daily, demanding his mother be sent home. And besides, Zach just doesn’t trust Angie.
Ella warms to Cutlers Bay, and it warms to her. In a defiant act of self-determination, she buys an entirely unsuitable house on the outskirts of town, and Angie agrees to help make it habitable. Zach is drawn to the house on the clifftop, and finds himself revising his earlier opinions of Ella, and Angie.
MY THOUGHTS: All About Ella is a warm and engaging book about the vulnerability of aging and the greed of families. It is also a book about friendship, loyalty and learning to stand your ground.
I am always excited when I see that Meredith Appleyard has a new book out. She writes about very real situations using realistic and relatable characters, ones that you could move right in with, or live next door to.
Ella’s husband of fifty years has died. Quickly the children organize the sale of the family home and move Ella in with her eldest son, Anthony, and his wife and family saying that they will use her money to build a ‘granny flat’ onto their house for her. But as the weeks roll on, there’s no building, not even a plan to be seen. You can see where this is going, can’t you . . .
Ella has the daughter-in-law from hell. Volatile doesn’t even begin to describe Kirsten, who throws tantrums and issues ultimatums. Husband Anthony is well under her thumb, his mantra being ‘anything for a quiet life.’ Ella’s other two children are no help either, not living close, and being fed misinformation from Anthony and Kirsten. Is it any wonder Ella leaves home? And so her adventures begin . . .
I was rooting for Ella all the way through. She is a delightful character, one who has devoted her life to husband and family, and is now bewildered that they have turned on her. Though they term it ‘as knowing what’s best’ for her. I did wonder about a few of her rather rash decisions early on, but eventually she has the chance to review and fine tune them.
Along the way she picks up some staunch supporters and new friends. Angie is forty, footloose and fancy free, or rootless, depending on your point of view. Not everyone is convinced that she is trying to help Ella. Some are worried that she is only there to see what she can get from the old lady. One of the doubters is Zach, local copper in Cutlers Bay where Ella finds herself and decides to put down roots for a while. Zach has had his heart broken and doesn’t trust women generally, never mind these blow ins. And Ella is just trouble from the moment she arrives . . .
There are plenty of other interesting characters too: Leon, the local publican; Claire, the 80 year old ex-community nurse; Henry, Zach’s father; and Ruth, who owns the cafe to name a few.
The story is told from the points of view of Ella, Angie, and Zach, giving a balanced and diverse overview. I loved this story set in a small rural South Australian coastal town. I loved the characters Meredith has peopled her story with. I love her attention to detail, and that she addresses the topic of aging independently in a forthright and honest manner.
I: #meredithappleyard @harlequinaus
T: #MeredithAppleyard @HarlequinAUS
#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #romance #sliceoflife
THE AUTHOR: Meredith Appleyard lives in the Clare Valley wine-growing region of South Australia, two hours north of Adelaide. As a registered nurse and midwife, she has worked in a wide range of country health practice settings, including the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She has done agency nursing in London and volunteer work in Vietnam. After her first manuscript was rejected, she joined a writers’ group, attended workshops and successfully completed an Advanced Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing with the Adelaide College of the Arts. And she kept working. When she isn’t writing, Meredith is reading, helping organise the annual Clare Writers’ Festival, or at home with her husband and her border collie, Daisy.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia, HQ and MIRA via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of All About Ella by Meredith Appleyard for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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