Everything Judy has written here is background to a startling story about to unfold. When William is 10, Jess decides to spend the summer holidays with Adam in France. The boy desperately misses having a father and Jess decides it’s time for Adam and William to spend some time together.
This love story is set in the enchanting Dordogne; a beautiful part of rural France bathed in summer sunshine and utter charm. The relationship between Jess and Adam is strange, to say the least: but young William is happy as a skylark to have his parents together in his own little world.
But back in Manchester , tragedy is unfolding. Jess’s wonderful mother is now ill, so ill that she’s had to go into a nursing home. It isn’t a spoiler to reveal that she has Huntington’s, a fantastically cruel genetic neurological disease, incurable and fatal.
To be diagnosed with Huntington’s is to be condemned not only to one’s own bitterly cruel death (sufferers lose control of their motor functions, trembling and twitching, as well as gradually losing their sanity) but also to know that each one of your children has a 50% chance of inheriting the condition. Young people of child-bearing age often have yet to learn that they possess the faulty gene, or that they have already passed the awful condition on to their own children.
I won’t spoil this moving tale by telling you if Jessica and/or William have inherited the curse of Huntington’s. But I will say that despite this horrible genetic threat; despite Jess’s mother’s inevitable cruel death; love blossoms again between Jess and Adam. And William, bless him, has his longed-for family back together again.
Well. For now, anyway.
This is a classic, bittersweet love story in the same vein as the best-selling Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Readers who loved Jojo’s tender interpretation of love in a situation doomed to end in tragedy will really enjoy this novel. Like Moyes, Isaac’s writing is enjoyably sweet and funny as well as moving.
Jessica is a young, single mother who lives with her 10 year old son William in a two-up-two-down terraced house in Manchester. William’s father, Adam, long ago decamped to France. He has restored a crumbling French chateaux and turned it into a luxury hotel.
William is desperate to see more of his father, who split up with Jessica immediately after the child’s birth. They weren’t married, just boyfriend/girlfriend, and Jessica’s pregnancy came as a huge surprise. Their relationship – always edgy, never a total commitment – was totally torn apart when Adam failed to turn up to the hospital where Jessica gave birth. He missed the big moment and only lurched into the ward, suspiciously drunk and perfume-scented, when William was already in his hospital crib.
Jessica has had to give birth without her boyfriend, but her wonderful mother fills the gap. Calm, funny, wise – mum is soignee, pretty and slim. Beautifully dressed, efficient and composed, she guides Jess through the birth and is furious with Adam when he does finally – and far too late – turn up to see his brand-new son. So, Adam buggers off to the Dordogne and Jess stoicially brings up William on her own, apart from the enormous input and support of her beloved mum and dad.