Addled mother-of-three finds her identity buried under layers of clutter in her unkempt home. Dealing with the unrelenting demands of children, the ever-growing pile of laundry, dishes and post, she finds herself having to admit she's no longer able to cope. Enter her very own 'listening angel' - a supposed good Samaritan from the local charity set up to give support to 'Mums' under pressure. So why can't she get a word in edgeways? And why is her husband's mood suddenly so elevated - when a certain angel is hovering nearby? Thus unfolds a dark and hilarious journey into the wilds of suburbia, where unforgettable characters dwell and the unexpected is never far away. Told through diary-style musings, Notes for the Next Time explores the murky depths beneath the smooth surface of life in a hilarious, surprising and genuinely moving read. And what looks to be the final nail in the coffin of our mum-on-the-edge's ebbing sanity may actually provide the much-needed catalyst for change.
The narrator of this story (the novel is in 1st person epistolary -- don't think a name is given to this voice) is a frazzled mom in a stagnant marriage & overall just kinda unhappy with how her life turned out. In her journal, she documents the things she observes in her own life and in the lives of her neighbors, trying to make sense of the chaos that seems to be all around her. At first, comparing her life to those of the neighbors, she has the impression that everyone is doing so much better than her, but the longer she observes those around her, the more secrets start to unfold.
Her main observations focus on 1) her neighbors across the street, Trevor and Jill, who have political aspirations and who appear to have the perfect relationship. 2) Neighbors Pete & Stephanie who seem to have the most stellar connection in their relationship, always seem to be ready to go at it like rabbits, which makes the narrator that much more aware of what her marriage is lacking 3) Rachel, the "popular girl" in the neighborhood -- Rachel gives the impression of always being on top of things, her house is immaculate, her clothes stylish / on trend, her children perfectly behaved.
Rachel's children don't eat biscuits in her house, ever, because of the crumbs. She told them when they were very young that people only eat biscuits indoors when they are visiting at someone else's house, and they accepted this. I thought they were bound to work out that 'someone else's house' must constitute home for someone, who was therefore eating biscuits in their home and thus proving Rachel's assertion untrue. She said, "Paul [their father] was thick as shite. My kids'll never figure that out."
The narrator, in the beginning, is desperate to become besties with Rachel.
As the story continues to unfold, it turns out political hopeful Trevor ends up having a big scandal come out:
Trevor has visited a masseur in a hotel, and the masseur has gone to the papers with photos and texts he saved to his mobile phone. Trevor has issued a statement to the effect that he was receiving treatment for a sports injury and this was a privately run clinic, but the general buzz seems to be that either his injury was in the region of the prostate or Trevor is being disingenuous.
Along with keeping a journal, the narrator also keeps a Martha Stewart-esque binder, which she calls "Notes For The Next Time" that has instructions on how to do just about anything absolutely perfectly (categorized alphabetically, of course). Turns out our narrator is SO fixated on being the living embodiment of perfection in every way, she pretty much sykes her self out, instead managing to get nothing done for fear of failure. It's also sad how it seems like many of the people the narrator opens up to and dares to trust end up figuratively stabbing her in the back. She loses sense of self, sense of purpose until she is able to pick up a job working at a local thrift store. While so many in her daily life shun her, she finds that sense of community among the staff at this thrift store, because the staff just happens to be a band of fellow social misfits who are all mature enough to embrace each other's differences! :-) Imagine, a workplace free of judgement! LOL.
In the end, this ends up being a story of the grass only seeming to be greener on the other side and how sometimes all your life needs is a little figurative housekeeping, sloughing the dead weight people and things out of your life. A reminder that everyone's got their issues / demons they're battling, no one is as perfect as it all looks.
There were a few genuinely funny lines here and there, but it wasn't a non-stop LOL riot read for me. Much of it got kinda dull. Good message, but the story as is is just an okay read for me. Not bad, but coulda been better.