Book review: Em and Me by Beth Morrey

Em and Me by Beth Morrey is a story about poverty, hope, second chances, and learning to back yourself.

Delphine Jones and her daughter Emily share a bedroom in the cramped basement flat where they live with Delphine’s father. He has been depressed since Delphine’s mother died in a tragic accident and now just sits in front of the TV all day.

That’s what life turns on, isn’t it? The choices and moments that change everything

A promising student with a love of literature and destined for an Oxford University as a teenager, Delphine’s life changed after her mother died and then she fell pregnant at seventeen before finishing high school. Her university ambitions had to be abandoned to care for her baby and her father. Now she lives hand to mouth working part time cleaning and waitressing.

We meet mother and daughter when Emily is on the cusp of her teenage years. Emily is smart as a whip and Delphine wants her to have a better life. One day Delphine takes a stand for herself and we follow her on a journey to taking her place in the world and realising her own ambitions through a series of opportunities, setbacks, and second chances.

At some point, while I had been trying to turn my life around, often making a mess of it, my dad had been enjoying his own quiet renaissance – a gentle progression towards the light, nudging his strings, semitone by semitone, along with me. I felt tears rise up, threatening to overcome me as I looked at him, standing there so proudly. Forgetting Adam, and Dylan, Letty, and my own guilt about Em, I sat down at the piano, and began to pick out a tune, softly, Dad humming along, his hand on my shoulder.

A light fun read with characters that are well-drawn and interesting. Em and Me is a heartwarming, optimistic feel-good domestic fiction tale about triumph over adversity.

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