On the surface there’s something a little out-of-the-box about Nick and Maya and their perfect children in the @CBBookGroup August read – no, stay with me. It is the surface that Leah McLaren gives us first, the sheen that should be everything they want before revealing the depth that makes that surface reflect back to them everything that’s missing.
When Nick decides to tell his best friend, Family Lawyer Adam, that he wants out, Adam’s advice is that he’ll be taken to the cleaners unless he changes his ways – or at least appears to. So Nick becomes a better man: supportive, engaged, present.
There’s more than a hint of this perfect couple being on the brink of reaping what they sow in the moment when one of the twins bites Maya as she breastfeeds them. Little Isla, all innocence and curls, parrots back her mother’s profanity with a smile.
Maya is keenly observed. The breadth of her bewilderment at where she finds herself, at the depth of her investment in protecting her children, in doing everything she can to keep them close, the underlying desperation that swamps her is palpable. But for all that, it feels very much like Nick’s story. His little moments of epiphany are very astute, and wittily presented. It’s a really funny book – until it ceases to be funny because actually it’s desperately sad.
There’s a real sense of the romantic comedy about this book – at least in the first instance – and there are a couple of knowing references to ‘life in the movies’ that point to Leah’s awareness of the boundaries of genre. But it would be a genuine shame for readers to miss this book through thinking it’s ‘merely’ chick-lit or rom-com fluff. The investment I felt in Nick and Maya – and in Adam as well, though not in the same way – was strong enough to augur those moments where I looked at the ceiling and said, ‘no, don’t do it!’
And if ever you needed proof that you should never, NEVER trust a lawyer this book is it. Pick it up and read it so you can tell people how much better it is than the film it’ll be made into.
A Better Man was published by Corvus Books on 6th August 2015 ISBN: 9781782396345
You can find Leah on twitter @leahmclaren