The Songs of Us - by Emma Cooper
“Quirky, clever, and original, this will break your heart, but put it back together again” ~ Katie Fforde
From the cover: If Melody hadn't run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn't be left with a condition that makes her sing when she's nervous. And she definitely wouldn't have belted out the Arctic Monkeys' 'I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor' in assembly at her son's school.
If Dev hadn't taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn't have happened. He wouldn't have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life's heart.
But if they hadn't seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be 'Us'.
Having recently finished two utterly spectacular books (‘Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine’ and ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’) I opened up this book with the notion that it would be a tough job to wow me.
The story line is undisputedly unique (at first I thought it rather far fetched), but I was soon captivated. Having suffered a bump to the head, Melody (the main character) now suffers from a rather embarrassing and uncontrollable disorder (similar to Tourette’s) where she bursts into song whenever she’s feeling stressed or anxious. Whilst Melody is learning to live with this (using various coping techniques prescribed by mental health professionals), her teenage children, Rose and Flynn, are feeling the strain, and are already struggling to deal with their own complicated teenage issues as well as the sudden disappearance of their doting father.
The book is written in the first person of the characters, mainly Melody, Rose and Flynn:
Melody is just an ordinary mum, who is doing a remarkable job at parenting yet fucking it up simultaneously. She has to cope with her unexplained disorder that means she bursts into song in the supermarket, the school assembly, the headmasters office, the middle of the street (the most hilarious and embarrassing songs too), and the impact it has on her beloved children. She hates what it’s doing to them. She’s also dealing with the loss of the love of her life - her husband - and not knowing what actually happened to him all those years ago. She’s desperately trying to keep it all together and it’s heartbreaking - how much she loves her children, and how she calls upon an invisible strength that even she doesn't know she has, just to keep her family in tact.
Then there’s Rose, the Grade A student who refuses to give up looking for her long lost Dad - and she’ll do anything to find him - despite the fact it’s been eight years since he disappeared and is presumed dead. Whilst she comes across as the stable, mature one, she’s harbouring a chilling, heartbreaking secret herself, which will come crashing down on the family just when you think they can’t possibly take anymore.
The older of the siblings is Flynn - the moody, sullen teenage boy who keeps his hair long to cover up the scars on his face from the car crash. The crash him and his Dad were in. The crash he believes is the reason his Dad left them, because he couldn’t handle the guilt. Flynn can’t control the anger he feels towards his father for leaving them (and towards life in general) and this, coupled with the taunts and the bullying he’s subjected to at school, causes him to get into fights. Despite the rage and the complex teenage hormones, Flynn is a funny, loving, vulnerable yet strong boy who clearly adores his mum, and he's stepped up to the role of ‘man of the house’ despite being just a child himself.
This book captures trauma, heartache, loss and devastation, as well as everyday family struggles. The characters are so broken, so tortured, yet so normal. Above all this book perfectly demonstrates that, despite drama, suffering and heartache, the bond of a family can never be broken.
This book will make you laugh out loud; it will make you warm and fuzzy at the normal, family togetherness; and it will make you cry. So be prepared for a rollercoaster of emotions!
“You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend” ~ Paul Sweeney
I hope you enjoyed reading this review and I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Much love, Fran xxx
ABOUT FRAN GRANT
Fran Grant is a writer and children's author. She is also the wife of a very patient husband and the mother of 3 energetic little boys. As a self-confessed bookworm and book hoarder, she is a huge believer in keeping the magic of reading alive for children. After many years in the corporate world, Fran is now fulfilling her lifelong ambition of writing books.
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