Book

A Midlife Holiday

Midlife Voices

By Sarah Faichney | July 2022

“Stevie Nicks is a legend!” I knew I would love ‘A Midlife Holiday’ from this opening line. I haven’t devoured a book in one sitting for a long time but I literally could not put this down. It’s the first in a trilogy and I cannot WAIT to read the next instalment.

It shouldn’t be so rare (or refreshing) to read about the lives of middle-aged women, but it is. Cary J Hansson handles her subject matter with authenticity, providing some seldom heard (yet much-needed) commentary on midlife. She illustrates, perfectly, why menopause is often referred to as “the change” as, over the years, everything alters - our opinions, our bodies, our friendships, our willingness to make ourselves smaller/quieter/compliant.

Characters Helen, Caro and Kay have been friends since their teens. Now, many years on, we get to see how their friendships have evolved. I think there’s deep comfort in female friendships, especially long-standing ones. They hold no airs nor graces with one another. This is beautifully illustrated by Hansson in a restaurant scene, when the pals go out to celebrate Helen’s 50th birthday and a gift is not gratefully received... Once the dust has settled, will the women continue to grow together or begin to grow apart? One thing is certain - a holiday together will help put things into perspective.

The book is compulsively readable. It made me laugh and provided much food for thought. Any woman entering (or rapidly approaching) her fifth decade on this planet will find much to identify with here. It’s a time for throwing off the shackles. As our bodies change, many of us finally begin to accept ourselves. Maybe even feel a bit proud that we’ve made it thus far - hopefully without killing anyone, although the urge to do so seems to grow greater in inverse proportion to our declining hormones. Some of us have made whole, entire people! Others are well-established in our chosen field of work. It’s those choices we make early on that Hansson really hones in on, and the consequences therein. Can we really have it all, or have we made rods for our own backs?

Child-rearing women seldom have the luxury of staying at home nowadays, as the cost of living rises exponentially. Many of us are well-versed in the daily battle with Mum-guilt. That most torrid of times when, in trying to be everything to everyone, we end up pleasing no-one. Not the boss who expects us at our desks, nor the child we’ve left screaming in the school playground.

Funnily enough, the sequel to this book is set to be titled “A Midlife Baby” - but who shall be mother? Despite the fact that one of our ladies is actively trying to get pregnant in “A Midlife Holiday”, I’m not sure it follows that she will necessarily be the one welcoming a new addition. I felt there were some hints that it could be one of our other heroines on the brink of new parenthood. Anyone of the trio, in fact. It wouldn’t be the first time a woman mistook pregnancy for menopause! I guess we’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Middle-aged women are as diverse a group as any other. There is much to mine, in terms of life experience. What this book illustrates, very well, is that each midlife experience is as unique as the woman herself. There’s not only a place, but a desperate need, for these stories and for greater visibility of women in this age group in general. We are not invisible, we have plenty to contribute and we demand to be heard! I believe that there is absolutely an appetite for these books and hope to see an upturn in promoted titles in the near future. Actually, the 20-somethings could gain much from reading Hansson too. Here’s one of my favourite quotes:

“She was fifty! And amazingly, quite wonderfully, that meant that she seemed to have crossed into a different land with a whole different language. I want. I can. If only… Oh, if only she really could go back to her twenty-one-year-old self, tap her on the shoulder and whisper this magical secret.”

‘A Midlife Holiday’ is funny, brutally honest, extremely relatable and a perfect summer read.

Cary J Hansson has been writing for ten years. Stories about ordinary people, living lives of extraordinary courage and indestructible humour. She promises only two things: no knights in shining armour and no flying cars. Her heroines save themselves, as in the end we all must do.