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Lifesaving for Beginners by Ciara Geraghty
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Lifesaving for Beginners

by Ciara Geraghty

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I read this book in three parts for a readalong organised by the publisher. These are my thoughts.

Part 1 (pages 1-149)
Lifesaving for Beginners is Ciara Geraghty’s fourth book. Her first, Saving Grace, is one of my favourite Irish chick lit books. (You can also read my reviews of Becoming Scarlett and Finding Mr Flood by clicking on the hyperlinks). All her books all deal with serious topics in addition to being a lot of fun. I think that Lifesaving for Beginners is somewhat of a departure from the traditional chick lit format. Why? It starts with an accident on the motorway that changes a lot of lives – not really for the better. Then we have two characters telling their stories through the first person – Milo, a young boy who lost his mother in the accident, and Kat, who by a miracle survived.
I like the way that Geraghty writes Milo’s voice. He really does sound like a young boy, but the voice isn’t condescending or childish. Perhaps that’s because Milo has a number of issues to deal with that are distinctly grown up. Like his Mam dying, the arrival of a new half brother or sister, being brought up by his sister Faith (who it turns out isn’t biologically related to him) and everything changing crazily. I warmed to Milo instantly and found his adventures with Damo fun to read.
Kat is a mystery. I’m not finding her all that likeable at the moment. Is that because she pretty much poked and prodded her relationship until it broke down? She seems to have some good things going (such as being the mysterious Killian Kobain, highly successful author of the Declan Darker crime novels) but is also determined to break them down. It’s like she feels she doesn’t deserve happiness.
This then brings me to the mystery. I think it’s quite obvious what’s going to happen and how these characters are going to link up. The first hint (the letter) was pretty subtle, but the next conversation between Kat and Thomas (now ex-boyfriend) about motherhood is pretty blatant. I hope that there’s more to the mystery that I haven’t guessed!
I think the highlight for me so far has been the supporting characters. Brona, Kat’s agent, seems like fun (I think you’d have to be to meet your writer and swap suitcases anonymously in London bookshops). Ed, Kat’s brother, is also sweet – and has a good logic for why Kat should make food for him! The book for me is more about storyline that any gripping prose or quotable quotes, but that’s okay. Sometimes it’s nice to get caught up in the story rather than wondering about symbolism and definitions of words.
I hope to find out more about Kat’s parents in the next section as well as seeing if my prediction about Faith’s mother is true.

Part 2 (pages 150-296)
Note that there are spoilers in the below section.
So you’re happy to read on? Good. We open this section with Kat trying to write the next Declan Darker novel and erasing all of it. Just wondering for you writers out there, do you ‘properly’ delete scenes or chunks of writing or save them just in case they’re needed later on? (I did the latter for my thesis and it came in handy at the 11th draft!) I wished that Kat hadn’t deleted the scenes, but it’s rather reflective of her life really – if it doesn’t work out, backspace or delete.
Milo’s desperate to go to Ireland with Faith to meet her birth mother, but she’s refusing. I think by now we’re all pretty certain that Kat is her mother (which makes an interesting link with the accident – the birth mother and adoptive mother, complete strangers, being affected). And then it comes – yes, Kat is Faith’s mother, born when she was 15. Was this twist way too obvious or is there something Geraghty is going to twist in the plot? I’m hoping for the twist or something else completely head turning. What, I’m not sure. I’d like to see Kat being outed as Killian Kobain and all the media hype surrounding it. It would be interesting to see how she would cope – I think she could completely surprise us all.
Perhaps the twist in the next section will be the identity of Kat’s mystery blackmailer. Who could possibly know who she is and what’s their motivation? Given the number of coincidences in the book so far, could it be the truck driver? (I will laugh manically if I’m correct).
Ed continues to delight me as the sweetest character. Thinking of a gift for Faith, then giving it to her when he meets her was sniffle-worthy. It was lovely that Faith got to meet her birth grandparents and Ed, even though Kat was her usual stubborn self (warning: she’s starting to get dangerously unlikable) and refused to. What kind of message does that send to Faith? From what we know of her so far, she’s pretty stubborn, but I don’t know if she’ll come back for more. We know the scars left by hiding her pregnancy from everyone but Minnie, but it doesn’t give her the right to act so childishly!
Milo, who is a child, is again acting in such a more mature way than Kat. I loved his conversation with Kenneth/Leonard. So cute, yet the catalyst for the meeting with the family. It’s interesting that Milo is always talking about life saving, but we still haven’t seen him at a lesson yet! Will he be the one to use his skills on Kat and Faith’s non-existent relationship?
In terms of the language, it’s pretty simple to me (no looking up words in the dictionary so far) but it conveys the myriad of feelings everyone is feeling so well in addition to the difference between the characters. I love Milo’s voice!
Here’s hoping Kat will do something to redeem herself soon!

Part 3 (pages 297-438)
The third and final section of the book was definitely my favourite, not only because it ties up all the loose ends but because it shows Geraghty’s skill as a writer. As you would have read previously, I’ve been fairly ho-hum on Kat’s character so far – she’s selfish and ignorant, immature for her age. That all changes when Ed, her brother is rushed to hospital. (Just wondering if it’s normal for an ambulance to take 20 minutes for an emergency like that? It sounds like it would be rather a high priority!) Contacting Thomas was probably one of the best things she could have done as he gets to witness her life-changing, total turnaround in attitude when Kat is confronted with the potential loss of Ed. I thought the medicine was a little shonky there – angiogram and pacemaker in the one operation and it read like pacemakers are inserted through the groin – ouch! But I digress. The main point here was Kat needed something to shock her into the real world and this did it. It also stopped her whinging about turning 40, which I didn’t relate to at all (not being near it probably).
The change in Kat’s behaviour is astonishing – she’s smiling and being, well…nice. Human. Could it be that Milo and his phone call to her had a role? Maybe. Milo is an incredibly sweet, thoughtful young man wise beyond his years. When Kat has her press conference to reveal her status as Killian Kobain, the matter of the blackmailer is dealt with rapidly and never mentioned again. Given all the tension previously, to have only a couple of paragraphs mentioned was a letdown for me. The blackmailer should have been given his just desserts in a more detailed way in my opinion!
Kat’s mad dash to England to see Faith was fun – wouldn’t you like to eat at The Funky Banana? (I would, but then I really like bananas). I’m surprised that more wasn’t made about missing Christmas with Ed and her somewhat-closer family, but I guess this is because Kat is spending it with her recently rediscovered family. The character of Celia is a nice light point and I love the way she and Kat match and try to better each other’s statements when they first meet. The skipping over of Kat and Faith’s ‘big talk’ is interesting – I think it would have been an awkward discussion and a difficult one to write but the total absence of it was an anticlimax for me. Enter as enemies, leave as friends without seeing the change of heart.
It’s interesting that like Milo, Kat and Ed take up lifesaving. Is that because Milo’s been such a good lifesaver through the book in the relationship between Kat and Faith and Kat’s now redeemed, she can save lives too? Maybe. Perhaps it’s just another form of bonding.
Some may find it a bit lame, but I liked that Kat wrote her story and called it Lifesaving for Beginners, also published by Geraghty’s publisher, Hodder & Stoughton. It was a sweet way to pay tribute to what happened and the bonus with Thomas – a beginning, but no definite ending was what we’d been hoping for!
Overall, I found this book a little uneven in emotion relating to Kat, but it could be that I read it over the three weeks of the readalong. There’s not a great deal of surprises, but it’s a comforting read that is enjoyable.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | Feb 24, 2013 |
The novel begins very dramatically, with a serious car crash, which leaves one woman dead and another hospitalised. This also serves as a wonderful tool for gripping the reader from the outset.

Kat Kavanagh is the complex woman who survives the crash. A very independant and proud Irish woman living in Dublin, she is not kind to herself, mostly because she hides a secret that changed her life forever. A secret that has makes her a put on a perennial brave face to the world.

Milo McKenzie is a typical nine year old living with his Mum and sister in Brighton. A happy go lucky child, until tragedy strikes, leaving Milo without his beloved mother.

Strange as it may seem, these two people are inextricably linked and are destined to find each other. The events of one day literally change everything.

Ciara Geraghty is a smashing writer. Kat and Milo's stories are told in alternate chapters and their characters are so well drawn I found myself caring very deeply about their fate. Milo's sister Faith is a prominent character also...a young woman who finds herself with huge responsibilties when their mother is killed. Then she discovers that she isn't the person she thought she was and her relationship with her partner disintegrates......how much more can go wrong?

Above everything else, I loved the voice of Milo. Geraghty manages to convey the spirit of a nine year old .....a child his mother called " a tonic".....he just has the knack of making you feel better!

Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote teresa1953 | Oct 5, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0340998113, Paperback)

Kat Kavanagh is not in love. She has lots of friends, an ordinary job, and she never ever thinks about her past. This is Kat's story. None of it is true. Milo McIntyre loves his mam, the peanut-butter-and-banana muffins at the Funky Banana cafe, and the lifesaving class he does after school. He never thinks about his future, until the day it changes forever. This is Milo's story. All of it is true. And then there is the other story. The one with a twist of fate which somehow brings together a boy from Brighton and a woman in Dublin, and uncovers the truth once and for all. This is the story that's just about to begin ...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:37 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Kat Kavanagh is not in love. She has lots of friends, an ordinary job, and she never ever thinks about her past. This is Kat's story. None of it is true. Milo McIntyre loves his mam, the peanut-butter-and-banana muffins at the Funky Banana cafe, and the lifesaving class he does after school. He never thinks about his future, until the day it changes forever. This is Milo's story. All of it is true. And then there is the other story. The one with a twist of fate which somehow brings together a boy from Brighton and a woman in Dublin, and uncovers the truth once and for all. This is the story that's just about to begin.--Cover.… (more)

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