Good morning all, I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today for Alice Peterson’s latest novel If You Were Here. I read this novel a few months ago now, I’d been eagerly awaiting it and just couldn’t wait a minute longer for the paperback release, so gave in and read the ebook. Of course, when the opportunity arose to jump on-board the blog tour I grabbed it – any excuse to shout about the book again. Thank you very much to Becky McCarthy and Simon & Schuster for having me.
Firstly, a little bit about the book
I can toast to my future, but the thundercloud over my head, the threat of a storm, will follow me like a shadow wherever I go. The truth is, I have a potential bomb in my bag, and who knows when or where it will go off . . .
When her daughter Beth dies suddenly, Peggy Andrews is left to pick up the pieces and take care of her granddaughter Flo. But sorting through Beth’s things reveals a secret never told: Beth was sick, with the same genetic condition that claimed her father’s life, and now Peggy must decide whether to keep the secret or risk destroying her granddaughter’s world.
Five years later, Flo is engaged and ready to pack up her life and move to New York with her high-flying fiancé. Peggy never told Flo what she discovered, but with Flo looking towards her future, Peggy realises it’s time to come clean and reveal that her granddaughter’s life might also be at risk.
As Flo struggles to decide her own path, she is faced with the same life-altering questions her mother asked herself years before: If a test could decide your future, would you take it?
An emotional, inspiring and uplifting novel, IF YOU WERE HERE will break your heart and put it back together again. The brand new novel from the acclaimed author of A Song for Tomorrow, perfect for fans of Hannah Beckerman, Dani Atkins and Jill Mansell.
If You Were Here is published by Simon & Schuster and is available to buy now in ebook amd from August 22nd in paperback…
It was back in 2017 when I read Alice Peterson’s last novel A Song For Tomorrow, so I was more than a little excited when I heard about If You Were Here and saw that gorgeous cover! As soon as I read the blurb, I just knew that this was my type of book; you know that little feeling you get when you just know for certain a novel is made for you – all those little elements you love: life changing decisions, over coming adversity, family secrets (and knowing Alice Peterson, a splash of romance thrown in for good measure). It was these reasons why I just had to skip waiting for the paperback release and read digitally (I only do this if I really cannot wait for something, as I’m a physical book-in-hand girl at heart!).
If You Were Here is a story about three generations of women and how Huntington’s Disease affects them as individuals and a family. From a non-gene-carrier and caregiver, Peggy, who spent years watching her husband Tim suffer and deteriorate from this cruel disease – nursing him through to the very end. To her daughter Beth (who we hear from through her diaries following a road accident 5 years previous) who was living in secret with the disease. And Flo, who at twenty seven has not just found out about her granddad and mother having Huntington’s Disease, but discovering too that this means she could also be a carrier, and having to come to that difficult decision of deciding whether to take the test or not.
I enjoy a book that really makes me think, and puts me in that position of asking myself “What would I do if I were in these characters shoes? What decisions and choices would I of made?” If You Were Here is certainly that kind of novel. When it comes to knowing our fate (if we were able to) I have always been absolutely adamant that I wouldn’t want to know mine. With something like Huntington’s Disease though, there actively is that option to know. When presented to you like that it’s not as easy to make that decision, is it? For me, just thinking about knowing, or not knowing, brings me fear in very different ways – there’s a fear of the unknown hanging over you, but there’s fear of going ahead and knowing. I can honestly say after reading this novel I have so much respect for people and families in these positions. The women in this novel are incredibly brave and strong, as are those in the real world, and there were certainly times when I had a lump lodged in my throat, and eyes filling up.
Peterson beautifully brings together and tells all three of these women’s stories, giving us a glimpse into how Huntington’s Disease plays a part in their life. It’s brilliantly done in really making us understand how something hereditary like this affects a whole family – generation to generation. You can feel the emotion coming off the pages. From the uncertainly, anger and fear that Flo is going through, the constant putting off telling Flo that Beth kept on doing, to Peggy’s heart-break and guilt as that of a spectator. Right or wrongly, you understand why these characters have made the choices they have, said the things they have and realise there is actually no right or wrong in something like this. It took me a good few days to read this book, and by no means was that because I didn’t enjoy it; there are stories that need to be savoured and I felt that If You Were Here deserved to be one of them.
There is also a beautiful ‘will they won’t they’ love story running throughout this novel. I think Flo and housemate James’s relationship was actually my favourite out of everyone’s. I instantly fell for him and felt from the very start that he would play a crucial part in this story, and he did; he was that person for Flo to shout at, cry on, or laugh with, and I adored these tender moments. I wanted to shout at her to see what was under her nose, make her just see the way that I could vividly picture him looking at her and for him to just say something. What I could never do was predict what was around the corner in this novel, or how it was going to end. Happiness or sadness? Would Flo decide to take the test or not? All I know is that when I turned the last page I just wanted more of these wonderful characters and their story.
The work gone into researching this book is clear to see and is indeed going to help in raising awareness of Huntington’s Disease. Whilst it is written with much care, understanding, sensitivity and empathy from the author, there is no sugar coating the facts and the realities of this disease. If you are part or a book club, or run a book club, this would make a perfect choice for the many discussions it can bring to a table.
I knew instantly when I read this quote that I wanted to share it towards the end of my review. It came very early on in the book but stayed with me throughout and says so much. Admitedly, it’s something I need to remember when I’m next having a meltdown over a bit of mess…
“These days, people strive for perfection, not realising all they really need is health and happiness. A spotless kitchen isn’t going to cut the mustard. A meal in a Michelin-starred restaurant won’t either. It’s the people sitting around your kitchen table who count.”
If You Were Here is a poignant, inspiring and thought-provoking story about the utter strength and courage we find within ourselves in times of uncertainty, appreciating what you have and just living in the moment!
About the author
Alice Peterson writes contemporary fiction with humour and compassion. Her novels are always uplifting, but her protagonists often have to overcome adversity. This is based on Alice’s own experience of a professional tennis career cut short at the age of eighteen , when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Alice has written two non-fiction titles and nine novels, and is currently living in West London with her handsome Lucas terrier, Mr Darcy.
Thank you for taking the time to read my review. As always, a little like or share to spread the word is always most appreciated. Do catch what my fellow bloggers are saying on the rest of the blog tour for If You Were Here…