Can a stranger heal your heart? Have you ever had to face such a situation where you find yourself running away from everything you ever loved and still end up at the same place? Is being able to detach a good thing or a bad thing considering every person needs an anchor in their lives?
Marshmallows For Breakfast by Dorothy Koomson is a book that shouldn’t be judged by its cover, or by its title. As chick-lity as it may sound, trust me, it’s far from being one. In fact, it’s one of a kind of emotional drama and a first for me.
Kendra Tamale has just landed back in England. After a couple of years in Australia, she grabs the opportunity to come back to her home country when her friend and ex-colleague Gabrielle offers her a job. Unknown to anybody, Kendra is actually running away from guilt so raw and vulnerable, which she wants to leave behind and start afresh.
Kyle and his twins return from a short holiday in America, with his estranged wife to find Kendra already in his studio flat which he had rented out to her. Like a moth to fire, the kids, Summer, and Jaxon, immediately take a liking to her, out of the absence of their mother, or just because Kendra seems to care, nobody knows. What Kendra does for the three of them, despite her reluctance to get attached to others, especially families, is remarkable. She puts the pieces of their broken home together, becomes a second mother to the children (by now she has too realized that she can’t live without them) and has Kyle fall for her. She knows better and rejects him, keeping him at arm’s length and being the friend he needs during the troubled patch he is going through, and in return healing herself of the guilt, she’s been carrying since her departure from Australia. Slowly, they all begin to settle, but when there has to be a trouble, there has to be. The kids are kidnapped by their alcoholic mother, leaving Kendra and Kyle in tatters, and Kendra’s trauma from her past life in England comes face to face again, to torment and torture the living daylights out of her.
What will Kendra do now? With no news of the kids and her past suddenly creeping in front of her like that, it takes a resolve stronger than steel to sail through. Will she emerge a winner? Or will she get lost in the deluge?
Writing this review has been quite difficult for me, not because I didn’t know what to write but because it was difficult to find the correct words that would as beautifully describe the feeling it left me with as the author’s prose, which though had more description, a little too much at some places, than dialogues (I prefer otherwise) never failed to keep me engrossed. The writing is neither too flashy nor too subdued, but a balanced one that ought to be easy for one, and above average for another.
Riding high on emotions, the story is narrated in the first person via Kendra’s point of view and shifting to a second/third person narrative during the later stages. Although the tense is present, there are episodes of flashbacks blended subtly at the right places, to give the reader a means to know the backstory.
The story opens with emotions as hard as wooden logs, and gradually as the reader burns through them, they turn into soft ashes, leaving a soothing sense of warmth. A plethora of feelings is passed before one realizes that there isn’t one single emotion that can be marked down as the core. One thing leads to another and it forms an intangible bond between the characters that are so well drawn that one can easily identify, yes, that can actually happen kinda thing.
There aren’t many characters, but the little which are there, are sufficient and well played with, their personalities given out partially by their actions in the present, partially by the incidents in the past and partially left for the reader to comprehend. While Kendra is given the majority of space being the protagonist, it is also through her that most of the other characters are built, be it the twins, Kyle, Gabrielle, Ashlyn, or Will.
The plot doesn’t sit on the main theme, even if one was to consider Kendra’s trauma as the core, it gets nearly impossible in the parallel storylines to look at it as one, although it actually shapes up the whole story. There are the twins, and then Kyle and Ashlyn, and then Kendra’s own struggles to keep herself out of their lives for her and their sake, her secret in Australia from which she is running and her past in England, which she so desperately wants to let go. All of them together make the whole story, interconnecting to such an extent that one would think of them all as one.
As I said earlier, the title is deceptive. It does nothing to give out the story, not even an inkling of it and that’s something I felt uncomfortable, to begin with. Then as I progressed further into the labyrinth of all the emotions that the author had created, I realized that the title couldn’t have been better, because inadvertently, the title is one of the most important aspects of the story.
The bonds of blood are not always as strong as the ones formed by heart, which often last a lifetime if formed with pure intentions. And when you let someone in despite all your doubts, they may prove to be the best decision of yours. What you don’t realize is as much as you fear to let yourself out to be helped by complete strangers, there are times when only these strangers can really help you get over what’s holding you back, and heal your heart.