“On the whole, humans want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.” – George Orwell
Anna Bond – in her mid forties, married for almost twenty years, Anna has reached a precipice in her life. Call it a mid-life crisis if you will. A self-confessed ‘Tiger Mom‘, she adores her teenage daughter and laments that she is becoming independent. Anna quit her job back when she had her daughter and now, after many years of being home, she feels unfulfilled. Then, when a momentous discovery rocks her world, she spirals out of control.
“Was it that I wanted to stay or that I did not want to leave?”
Well… I’m conflicted. This book had me hooked from the beginning. The writing was skillful and compelling. Why am I conflicted? I really didn’t like Anna, the protagonist. She portrayed all of the ‘human’ characteristics that are least likeable. She betrayed those she loved, she lied, she was revengeful, lustful, selfish, duplicitous… yet I was immersed in her story.
Anna’s love for her daughter was something that I think almost every parent of a teenager will identify with. The power struggles, the safeguarding, the rebellion, the fear…
Anna’s friendship with the elderly man, Fred, was a delight to read about, but this too had a rather melancholy overtone.
This novel relayed a domestic drama in a very authentic way. Perhaps too real to be entirely comfortable? The Bonds were a very dysfunctional family unit. But aren’t all families dysfunctional to some extent? Yes, the title was perfect for the narrative. We are all ‘only human‘, and make countless mistakes in our lives.
With themes of warped family dynamics, parenting, adultery, betrayal, and treatment of the elderly, it spoke to a lot of less savory aspects of our modern lives.
This is a book that will remain in my memory for some time. Even though there were many parts of the book that left me uncomfortable, I think that speaks to the powerful writing. In three words: realistic, poignant, and engrossing. Recommended.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from the author.
“Only Human” was published by Blackbird Digital Books on September 8, 2020
Diane Chandler was a political lobbyist in Brussels before then working at the European Commission in overseas aid for several years. Back in London, she joined the Ukraine and Africa desks at the Department for International Development (DFID). Her first novel, The Road to Donetsk, draws on her experiences in overseas aid. Her second, Moondance, on the emotional impact of fertility treatment. Her third novel, Only Human, is about a woman struggling to find new meaning in life after her husband cheats on her and her only daughter flies the nest. Diane co-runs Creative Writing Workshops London with Stephanie Zia of Blackbird Digital Books, and also coaches aspiring writers. She lives in London, England.
Follow Diane Chandler on Twitter @Dchandlerauthor