All The Books I Can Read

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Lifesaving For Beginners – Ciara Geraghty Read-A-Long Discussion Pt 1

on February 11, 2013

Lifesaving For BeginnersHello everybody! Welcome to the first of three discussion posts that we’re going to have on Lifesaving For Beginners by Ciara Geraghty which has been kindly organised by the lovely folks at Hachette AU. I’ll just preface this by saying that both the discussion post and the comments will contain ***SPOILERS*** so if you have not yet completed Part 1 of the read-a-long, which was pages 1-149 you may want to avoid this post until you’re done. Okay!

How is everyone liking the book? I have to say, the opening sucked me in immediately. We had a combination of a fatigued truck driver and a deer on the road that caused an accident which took the life of one woman and injured another. Our two narrators are Milo, a 9yo boy who lost his mother in the accident and is now in the care of his older sister, and Kat a writer writing under the name of a pseudonym who wasn’t severely injured but is finding it hard to cope out of hospital. She should be delivering the latest installment of her Declan Darker crime series but instead she finds herself suffering writers block. And Milo has discovered this older sister was adopted and isn’t in fact his sister at all. His father ran off with a younger woman, who is now pregnant and his twin brothers are away in London at University. Life has changed incredibly for Milo and it seems that the only thing that keeps him grounded is his lifesaving for beginners class, which he looks forward to every week and.

Is the dual narration working for you? I know sometimes I struggle with them, because it can be hard to balance out each story as they run parallel to each other in pacing, etc. Especially when your narrators are as different as Kat and Milo are and I think Geraghty has done a great job with these opposing voices. I’m really enjoying both the uniqueness of Milo’s voice and his matter-of-fact telling of what is happening around him. I feel so incredibly sorry for him – he’s lost his mother, the most important person in his world and his father can barely be bothered with him, living in Scotland with his new girlfriend and expecting a baby. I have to say, I think that announcing the pregnancy after the funeral of Milo’s mother was one of the most insensitive things I’ve ever heard. Is there anyone out there that would actually think this would be a good idea? I feel for Faith, Milo’s older sister too. She’s dealing with an awful lot. I don’t think it’s been mentioned how old she is, but I’m guessing around 23 or 24. She says she remembers her mother being pregnant with the twins and they’re at University so I’m guessing they’re around 19. She’s had to deal with losing her mother and now having the responsibility of bringing up her younger brother, something that is beginning to conflict with her band and cause trouble in her relationship with her boyfriend. On top of that, Faith found out that she was adopted and is now searching for her adoptive mother. She has a huge amount on her plate and I find myself becoming very immersed in her story, told through the eyes of Milo.

Kat is quite a different character altogether, not immediately sympathetic other than being the innocent victim in the accident. Her treatment of her boyfriend Thomas is quite harsh (as it seems to have been since day 1 actually, but she really ups the ante out of hospital) but I got the feeling later on in this particular section that Kat’s demons are about to come out. Samstillreading and I also find ourselves quite interested in Declan Darker! We agreed that they sound like books we’d love to read. I always find a story within a story fun and I hope we get more about Declan along the way. How do you all feel about Kat? Do you feel sorry for her? Do you want to give her a bit of a shake and tell her to snap out of it? Can you see her and Thomas reconnecting at any stage within the book?

Okay this turned out to be quite a bit longer than I expected. Only 150 pages in and already a lot has happened in this one and I think it’s a good choice for a read-a-long. Going to turn it over to you all in the comments now, so don’t forget to leave your thoughts and raise anything I may have forgotten.



40 responses to “Lifesaving For Beginners – Ciara Geraghty Read-A-Long Discussion Pt 1

  1. I must agree that the beginning grabbed me with this book, which surprised me. I thought it would be another ‘girlie’ book that I would battle through, but I am pleased to announce I am wrong. I love the dual narration within the book, as Ciara manages to us a different voice for both very effectively.

    I want to slap Kat hard but I also understand it must be hard going through something like that and just expect to carry on regardless. You would have to consider your mortality, when you are so close to losing it. Whilst not sympathetic with her, I see her point of view.

    Faith, poor girl. Must be a lot to take in at once. Loose your mother to find out she wasn’t your mother, and then to grow up so suddenly so you can look after a 9 year old. How do you keep faith in those circumstances. I found her name perfect for that reason.

    All in all, a great start. Some of the sentence structuring left me dry though.

    • Haha well I’m glad you’ve been pleasantly surprised then Stephen. I hope you continue to enjoy it. I also love how separate each voice is – I’ve read dual narration books before, even when the characters have been male and female, where it was very hard to distinguish between each voice. I think Geraghty has done really well at keeping her characters very separate, easy to distinguish and also enjoyable.

      I think you make a good point about Kat having to consider her mortality. She seems quite hung up about turning 40 as well, like it’s some kind of marker for something. I’m trying to consider her feelings and I think the next section will probably provide a lot more to go on with why she is having trouble coping.

      Good catch on Faith’s name too!

  2. Feistykel says:

    I often struggle with dual narration but this one to me seemed quite easy to adapt and follow, I didn’t feel confused or take time to get the hang of it, it’s well done.

    Kat is making me frustrated and annoyed. Yes, I am all for slapping her. Thomas seems lovely, what is she waiting for? A miracle? A prince? She’s gonna stuff it! I want to shake her!!!!

    I feel for Faith, for a young adult, she handles everything amazing well. I think both mothers would be proud if she’d believe it.

    I guess so far my only criticism is of Milo’s voice. He’s 9 right? I have a 9 year old and it doen’t quite gel for me, doesn’t quite feel real but I maybe comparing unfairly. It just sometimes seems either too young or too old a voice to me. Given the title, I was surprised the actual lifesaving class was not mentioned much.

    • I feel as though the lifesaving title may be a secret until later in the book. I was happy that the author did not waste the title using Milo’s classes as the reference. I think there will be something else about the title yet.

      • The fact that Milo is 9 doesn’t bother me too much. I have a 4yo and at times, he far exceeds my expectations for the way a 4yo talks, thinks and communicates. I think there are times where the maturity and immaturity is deliberate. At times Milo seems very together and there are others where it’s very clear that he’s just a little boy that really wants his mother back.

    • Thomas is so patient. I don’t think many men (or women) could put up with the hot-cold Kat for long!

  3. How many of the read-a-long people have reached 40? Did you feel the same things as Kat ie that sense of getting old?

    • I’m only 31 so it’s not something I’ve experienced yet. I do think however, that there’s always a little weird feeling about turning a new number with a 0 in it. You’ve leaving behind a decade that for some, means a certain part of your life. I know when I turned 30 last year, there was something about that number. Sometimes the 20’s and 30’s seem like a world apart.

      • luvzalkemy says:

        I’m 52 – it gets easier 🙂

        But I have found myself, and seen it in others, that there is a strong urge around 40 to have a baby, even if you already have children. It may be something else that’s affecting Kat, some difficult emotions.

    • Megan Warre says:

      I turned 40 last year – I found turning 30 was more of an issue for me – turning 40 is just a number and an excuse for a party. I don’t feel 40.

    • Yes, I can. As you realise 40 is getting closer there is this shift, this feeling inside that says, “Hey, I’m probably half-way through my life … how did that happen? There was all this stuff I was going to do …” You sort of want to take control of it in one way, but also want to ease up and go with the flow”. Well, that’s me, anyway.

      • Nowhere near 40 yet…I believe that age is not a number you need to get too hung up about. Is Kat more worried about not achieving the expected life achievements (e.g. marriage, baby) rather than her age?

  4. Susan says:

    I loved the opening sequence; it completely drew me into the book (which is exactly what a good intro should do, I say!). I got the sense of fatigue from the driver as well as the devastation of the accident. I like the way Milo’s Mam was characterised retrospectively, after her death. I feel more saddened by her death this way, as though I never got the chance to get to know her before she died.

    I don’t mind the dual narration but I do find I struggle with reading sans-serif font for long periods so I’m glad that Milo’s sections are relatively short. I agree that his voice seems to wander out of character here and there but it isn’t enough to bother me all that much. What troubles me more is the deliberateness of the characterisation, where boys collect scabs and estranged Dads announce their parenthood following their ex-wife’s funeral. I can see what the author is doing (and I appreciate it) but it feels a tad contrived for me.

    Likewise, I always feel uncomfortable when author’s devise writers as their main characters. I find it semi-autobiographical and (forgive me!) a little lazy, as though it was easier for the author to simply write what they know rather than research what they don’t. Having said that, I love the sound of the Declan Darker novels! I’d love to read them.

    As for the upcoming plot, I’m assuming that Kat is going to turn out to be Faith’s birth mother but Lordy I hope I’m wrong. I’ll be really disappointed if the big reveal is that obvious! I also think the title is merely metaphor; I’m not expecting it to be any kind of secret to be unveiled later on.

    • I find the real secrecy surrounding the real author of the Declan Darker novels very interesting. I actually wonder if there are authors out there doing that…writing successful books but under an entirely made up name and hiding themselves away from the world. The male name is not something that surprises me, there are female authors out there that write under initials or something ambiguous to avoid being seen as female, for certain novels.

      Kat is almost 40 and if Faith is around 23 or 24, that would place Kat in high school if she is to be Kat’s mother. Given this is set in Ireland, which has extremely conservative abortion laws even to this day, it would make sense for a young woman who fell pregnant at that time of her life to possibly adopt out a child, if they couldn’t fix themselves up for a journey to London in order to have a termination. And a child adopted out would perhaps explain about Kat’s freak out when a) Thomas suggested wanting a child and b) her friend confided in her that she was pregnant. I don’t think it will bother me so much if Kat is Faith’s mother. I think it would explain why Faith has been unable to get in contact with her birth mother.

      • I was intrigued by the Declan Darker secret-agent business too – I’m sure lots of authors do that, for various reasons. Would you do that?

        • I’m not sure. I don’t think I’d take it to quite the extent that Kat has – she’s very obsessive about staying private. I think the only reason I’d write under a pseudonym would be to keep blogging. I think as a published author, it would be hard to review other author’s books.

          • I would write under a pseudonym (in fact, I even blog under a pseudonym) – I agree with Kat on the privacy issue. Would you want to be at the dentist/buying underwear and asked constantly about just one of the things that makes you who you are?

            Saying that, I wish Kat’s family and Minnie knew about her writing. I think they’d be really proud.

  5. […] at All the Books I Can Read is hosting the online discussion. She has planned a weekly reading schedule, dividing the book into […]

  6. I hate to say it, but I’m finding the book a bit ho-hum at the moment. I’m finding it slow going and I thought more would have happened in 150 pages. I too find Kat quite annoying, and I don’t think it is just the accident or the fact that she is turning 40 (although those things certainly aren’t helping). It seems that she never wanted much of a relationship with Tom (who seems to be rather sweet by the way).
    I like the dual narration, although I’m finding the voices of Milo and Kat a bit too similar. I actually quite like the voice of Milo. It reminds me of Bertie in Alexander McCall Smith’s Scotland Street series, who from memory is about the same age. He comes across as a really sweet kid who is struggling to come to terms with the loss of his mother and now the possible loss of his sister as well. It’s actually Kat’s voice that I’m struggling with. To me, she comes across as a bit of a child. All those short sentences are making the story a bit choppy
    Hopefully the pace will pick up in the next section..

    • I’ll agree with the half sentences. They get to me as well.

      Kat seems unwilling to experience life, and even more so after the accident. Tom is great (from a totally male POV) but Kat seems to be too locked up in herself to really see it.

  7. Susan says:

    And what’s with all of the repetition (eg the frequent references to GREY’S ANATOMY)? Also, and now I’m being really picky, on page 55 Faith tells Milo (in passing, I’ll admit) to go and tidy his room then on page 100 Milo claims that Faith never mentions tidying his room. Grrr…

    • The references to Grey’s are a bit puzzling, unless that show is still incredibly popular in Ireland. It’s gone off a bit, I’d have expected references to it 7 or so years ago!

  8. So far I’m loving the dual narration – two distinct voices, both perfectly done. Ten-year-old Milo, with his factual, no-nonsense approach to life is breaking my heart. And Kat – well you know her – she speaks directly to the audience I imagine this book was intended for. I’m interested to read others don’t like Kat (or rather her voice doesn’t resonate with them) – I don’t either really, but mostly because she reminds me of a friend who I’m always wanting to say to “Your life is good! What more do you want! Enjoy what you have!”- exactly how I felt about Kat.

    And it’s funny. I’m chuckling-out-loud. And it’s sad – not in a sobbing-with-snot kind of way but more that dull ache in a corner of your heart that you get for characters. Perhaps it’s because I have a 10yo boy and I’m seeing life without a ‘mam’ through his eyes. On that point, I think Faith is a terrific character.

    My favourite character though is Thomas. I hope we get more of him. Geraghty has created a vivid character and I enjoyed how she presented their relationship history in little snippets.

    It’s going to take willpower to stick to the reading schedule Bree! I suspect I’m going to race ahead and finish it!

    • I feel the same way about Kat – she has a successful career, a rather fabulous boyfriend, a close friend and a lovely relationship with her brother, something that I actually forgot to mention in my original post. The only time I do seem to really like Kat is when she’s with Ed, I think the two of them together are wonderful.

      Read on if you want! I was going to as well but I figured I’d better get my post up first in case I accidentally included something that happened in a later part of the book!

  9. luvzalkemy says:

    It’s been a challenge to stop at page 149!

    I did like the prologue – it brought the reader into the story very well and reminded us that there are several sides to a tragedy.

    I found it hard to swap between Milo and Kat at the very beginning but I think that’s also because quite a lot was being set up. I agree some plot points are a bit too obvious – I can’t believe that the father would announce a new baby at the time but when I think about it, I can remember times in my life when people have been stupid and thoughtless in that way.

    Once I got into it, I did find it more and more interesting, especially how the characters are developing. I think Faith is terrific, and very well drawn. The older brothers are a hoot – at the same time very young and self centred and trying to be grown up and do the right thing. Without much guidance from their father…. I like Thomas a lot too and I am wondering about his background. Why is he so caring and what makes him step up the caring role after the accident? He seems to love Kat more even though she is horrible to him.

    I am very fond of Milo. There is something about him which makes him special. My own son had a difficult thing to deal with at the same age and it does mix their brain up a bit.

    Kat is a difficult person to like but it’s clear that even before the accident she had “issues”. The brain is a fragile thing and people underestimate the length of time it takes to heal after a knock. I can’t understand why Tom doesn’t know that she is a writer and a successful one at that.

    • I find myself wondering about the truck driver, actually. I feel rather sorry for him.

      I’d like to know more about Thomas as well, I hope he returns in part 2, despite looking like having moved on with his life.

    • I love this! I’ve read about women writing as men sometimes, or using initials like JK Rowling, etc but it’s not often I’ve seen a man outed as writing romance novels under a woman’s name, lol.

  10. […] hosting the online discussion. You can join the discussion about the first section of the book here – WARNING it does contain […]

  11. Paula says:

    Hi Guys,
    Great comments so far!
    I am not finding the dual narration too difficult but must admit that I enjoy reading Kat’s chapters more than Milo’s. Maybe because I can relate to her more.
    Like Feistkyl’s comments above, I find Milo’s voice too young for his age and it annoys me a little. I also agree that Kat’s voice can come across as like a child’s voice too.
    Once I got over that though I enjoyed going on the ride and look forward to finding out what happens next in their simple but equally complex lives.
    I am interested in how these two will come together and is anyone else wondering what Faith’s adoption has to do with Kat…as it seems to be heading in that direction.
    As for the Grey’s references, at first I didn’t get it but then I figured it was Kat and Tom’s way of talking about sex and that seemed to work for me…:)

  12. I have found this book quite easy to get into, normally for me its a few chapters before I start to get involved (especially with dual narration as I can get confused with characters). I do find the writing styles between the two points of view are done quite well, I can feel myself connecting with both main characters (as well as the driver). It’s a nice way to show how different people can be affected by the same event.

    I also feel a little bad for Thomas, I feel that he is stuck loving a person who doesn’t see him as an equal partner or takes his feelings into consideration, I’m looking forward to seeing how that relationship develops.

  13. I’m busy working today and tomorrow, so will comment properly before the week is out. I have been enjoying the book so far – I’m quite a way ahead, so will be careful not to spoil anything. I did find it slow to start though.

  14. Just a couple of comments to add – sorry, it’s so late in the week. One of those John Lennon-esque “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” weeks.

    Like Bree and Susan, I was sucked in straight away by the first chapter – a great hook that would be a worthy example at “how to start a novel” writing classes. After that, however, it took a while to get into it again, as I got used to the dual narrative told by two completely different people. I wasn’t really expecting that first-person narrative after the intro. I thought the story would include a focus on the truck driver.

    Kat rubbed me the wrong way initially. I didn’t dislike her, she just drove me a bit nuts. She was so contrary, so Katy Perry hot and cold that yes, Bree, I wanted to shake her and say, “Look who’s standing in front of you. He loves you. You!” I could see that she had some issues, could guess that there were reasons for keeping people at arms’ length, but still … I’m a romantic and I wanted her to be happy. With Thomas. And I wanted her to do what she could to achieve that, not just let it slip away.

    Milo, I just wanted to wrap him up in a big hug. He adds a humbling touch – there’s a simplicity about him (partly because he is a child, but also I think within his character) that contrasts beautifully with the cynical Kat. He’s a bit like Kat’s brother Ed. If the book was all from Kat’s perspective, I think readers would have got fed up with her.

    • IMHO, the book would not have sold if it was all from Kat’s POV!

    • Can understand completely where you’re coming from this week Monique! Mine was the best laid plans…go completely awry.

      I really enjoyed the first chapter – was so serious and confronting. I’ve found it quite a lot lighter since then. I wonder if the truck driver will make an appearance later?

  15. Sorry that I’m rather late joining in (very hectic week). I’ve just finished the second part of the readalong, so apologies if my thoughts overlap.

    I found it quite different to Ciara Geraghty’s other books – less chick lit, more general fiction with life dilemmas. Easy to read. Sometimes with the dual narrative, I find myself eager to get back to the other person’s story. Fortunately the chapters are mainly quite short so it’s easy to find out what’s happening.

    Kat is not an easy character to like, but Milo is lovely. Kat seems to me the more immature of the two!

    My detailed thoughts are here:

    Looking forward to catching up with what people think of part 2!

  16. […] to the team at Hachette and host Bree from All the Books I Can Read, I took part in a read-along over the last few weeks. The book was Lifesaving for Beginners by […]

  17. […] read along or want to know more about how they work, here are the links to our comments each week: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Beware of […]

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