It’s got ‘Coffee’ in the title, it’s about a nowhere-near-perfect mother and it’s funny. That was enough to convince me to open Life After Coffee, the debut novel from Virginia Franken.
After the first few paragraphs I had several problems:
- I couldn’t put it down
- I drove everyone around me nuts by reading them out the ALL the funny bits
- I have children of my own that I was supposed to be looking after…
What’s it about?
Amy O’Hara handed her 6-week-old son over to her husband and went back to work, travelling to third-world countries for months at time to source and buy the best ‘green’ coffee for her employer back in L.A.
The downturn hits, she gets fired and suddenly her family is without an income and she’s forced to get to know her (now) 2 children that she’s been leaving behind for the past 5 years.
Thrilled at the prospect of being able to pick up his screenwriting career where he left off, Amy’s husband immediately abandons her to the care of the kids without so much as a brief rundown on how to make a cheese sandwich (which it turns out her son is allergic to anyway).
Amy discovers that wrangling a 5 and 3 year old is much harder than wrestling her way through infested jungles.
Should I buy it?
I found Life After Coffee similar in feel to Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. A well-written, easy to read rollicking tale about school-gate politics, neighbourhood gossip and the endless struggle to balance family and work while still being able to actually pay the bills on time.
It’s un-put-downable (is that an actual word yet? It should be). After estimating that it would take me a week or so to finish reading it, I devoured it in 36 hours while ignoring my own children as much as was possible while avoiding a nasty visit from DHS.
Buy it if:
- you love listening to hilarious stories over a cuppa
- you don’t mind a bit of swearing
- you feel like you’re the worst parent in the world (you’re not)
- you’d love to see what life would look like if you’d taken the sliding doors route and gone back to work full-time while your husband stayed home with the kids
- you want to learn more about how coffee beans get from plantations to your coffee cup – seriously, it’s fascinating! Virginia Franken has done meticulous research into the coffee buying world.
Here’s a few of my favourite lines.
Looking after the kids all day is hard. Harder than sourcing coffee beans in countries without plumbing. So there.
On the possibility that parenting is a government conspiracy:
No one tells you about all of this in the birthing classes. They should. In fact, they should probably do a seminar when we’re all still in high school on how parenthood’s guaranteed to run your relationship and your mental health straight through the shredder. But then the birthrate might start dropping even faster that it already is and fifty years from now there would be no one left to pay the government its precious taxes. This is all a conspiracy.
When Amy is confronted by a stay-at-home mum who criticises her decision to work full-time:
‘I mean when one parent’s a bit in and out of their lives. It just reminds me of some of the kids I volunteer with in Boyle Heights. When their dads are incarcerated, they can get sort of, you know– riled up.’
I’m speechless for a moment.
‘Are you comparing being a working mother to being a criminal?’
But then realisation strikes:
‘Oh, of course,’ I say. And there it is. The chink in her armor of self-confident righteousness. She’s a little paranoid that she hasn’t made big enough waves in the world because she never had a career. I realise this woman’s as bitten up about her choices as I am.
Buy Life After Coffee:
- Life After Coffee – Paperback (Booktopia)
- Life After Coffee – ebook (Kindle)
- Life After Coffee – audiobook (Audible)
Want to know more?
- Read my author interview with Virginia Franken
- Learn more about the history of the coffee trade by reading the novel The Coffee Trader, by David Liss.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
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