Are you stay-at-home parent, feeling unhappy, tired of chores and monotonous life, feeling lack of real purpose in life, not content with how life turned out? Carole felt the same in Everyday Magic. It was fun, heart-warming, and relatable contemporary fiction about reflection on life and importance of past.
Everyday Magic by Charlie Laidlaw
Publication Date : May 26th 2021
Publisher: Ringwood Publishing
Genre: Literary fiction/ Contemporary Fiction/ Humour
Pages : 272
Carole Gunn leads an unfulfilled life and knows it. She’s married to someone who may, or may not, be in New York on business and, to make things worse, the family’s deaf cat has been run over by an electric car.
But something has been changing in Carole’s mind. She’s decided to revisit places that hold special significance for her. She wants to better understand herself, and whether the person she is now is simply an older version of the person she once was.
Instead, she’s taken on an unlikely journey to confront her past, present and future.
Everyday Magic is an uplifting book filled with humour and poignancy, and reminds us that, while our pasts make us who we are, we can always change the course of our futures.
Disclaimer : Many thanks to Shannon @R&R Book Tours for tour invite and author for sending me book, in exchange for an honest review.
Other books I have read by the author:
When Carole was little, she found a magic clearing in the woods near her home. She had been exploring, surrounded by oak, birch, and hazel trees, picking her way carefully between bramble and nettle. There was birdsong, squirrels darting across branches, and patterns of sunlight on the woodland floor. She had been looking for bilberries, and her hands were full of small black berries. She stopped to sit on an outcrop of rock by a wide stream that, in winter, could quickly become a torrent of brown water. In summer, it was comforting; in winter, treacherous. She ate her bilberries, the stream cascading over a small waterfall; the sound of water in her ears. It was summer and the stream bubbled crystal clear. The woodland rose in folds from the stream, and she climbed steadily upwards. Here, the trees crammed in on her; it was darker. When she looked up, she could only see sunlight trapped on leaves far above. It was a part of the old woodland that she’d never been to before, but she pushed on, feeling that she was on an adventure and might suddenly come across a gingerbread house or wizard’s cottage.
At the top of the hill she found herself in a small clearing. It was only a few yards across, framed with oak trees, and perfectly round. Sunlight from directly above made the clearing warm, and she stood at its centre, wondering if she was the first person to have ever discovered it. Each of the oak trees around the clearing seemed precisely set, each one a perfect distance from the next, and she walked around them, touching each one, wondering if someone had planted the oak trees, or if the clearing really was a magic place. She still sometimes believed in magic. Then she stood again at its centre, wondering at its symmetry and why a long-dead sorcerer might have planted the oak trees. Then, realising that the sorcerer might not be dead, and that she had walked uninvited into his private domain, she hurried away, not sure whether to be frightened or excited. It was a place she often went back to that summer, and on following summers, sometimes alone and sometimes with her little brother. They would sit in the centre of the woodland circle, eating bilberries, hoping to meet the sorcerer who had built the clearing. She wasn’t frightened of him anymore; the clearing was too peaceful to have been made by a bad wizard. It was their secret place, but mainly Carole’s, because she had found it. It was a comforting place: it was somewhere she would go if she was sad or angry about something, because the woodland circle and its shifting half-shadows offered calm and new perspectives. She could almost hear the trees speak to her, the wind in their branches making the leaves whisper, but so softly that she couldn’t understand. She would listen, eyes closed, the leaves rustling, but she never understood what they were saying. The circle of trees stood solid and immovable, dark and stoic, old and wise, and each one the colour of stone.
Everyday Magic was heart-warming contemporary fiction that revolved around Carole revisiting places that were important in her life to figure out her present.
Theme of story was family, love, reflection on life, importance of past that shapes a person, getting clarity of life, finding purpose, appreciating what one has in present, having control over the path of future, and importance of small things.
Writing was beautiful and engaging with long paragraphs and chapters that made the pace slow to steady but never boring. Story was written in third person narrative from Carole’s POV. Some readers might find this slow and meandering but as it was my third book by the author, I was pretty used to author’s style and writing.
Book started with Carole recently feeling unhappy, tired of chores as mother and wife of monotonous life, feeling lack of real purpose in life, not content with how life turned out. Sounds like mid-life crisis, right? Or was it? She didn’t know what exactly she wanted but knew answers to her dilemma, her feelings lay in past that shaped her life, choices she made that resulted in present and to figure it out she decided to randomly visit paces that were important in her life. And then there were weird things happening with her electronic devices.
It was interesting to read Carole’s life and her past through her memories, what memories were attached to a place she visited, what she would discover at those places and at the end of her journey.
Concept of visiting places that held importance in life reminiscing events close to heart, reflecting on it, and having new perspective about both past and present was great. I wish I had memory like Carole as I swear I don’t remember events of my past with such great clarity and detail.
First few chapters introduced Carole, her life, husband who was often away because of his job, ungrateful teenage daughter, and her thankless monotonous chores as wife and mother. As story progressed, we know more about her past– childhood, family, what inspired her to be archaeologist, her first home as adult, first love, how her brother died, how she met her husband, first treasure she found at archaeology site, many other findings, and her research for doctorate degree. It all was interesting to read all phases of Carole’s life.
Carole was witty, smart, and lovely, a very realistic and relatable character. Her view towards sat nav in car was hilarious. It was entertaining to read how she compared her wish and longing with sat nav voice. Being stay-at-home parent, I could relate to Carole. She was archaeologist professor at Edinburgh University but she left her career and work she was passionate about for motherhood.
At first, I thought why she didn’t return to job she loved and enjoyed. I thought it was a decision to be stay-at-home parent to raise her daughter with husband often away but as book progressed, we see there was more to it and after reading the reason I admired her even more. I could understand her worries and fears. I could see how easy it was to feel she was unloved with insecurities and doubts creeping in mind, and feel no one would care if she disappeared suddenly.
I loved how visiting places, reminiscing events attached to those places changed her view and brought her close to her family, her daughter and specially her husband; how she understood it’s time to put her worries and fear aside and grab the opportunity she was getting to get back to what she loved.
The setting of Edinburgh was amazing. It made me want to pack my bags and move to this place full of history. I enjoyed reading places around Edinburgh, Neolithic history, about stone age, history of standing stone and 5000 years old Stenness stones.
Divine intervention had no explanation but I liked how through that it was portrayed to pay more attentions to sign we get in life. I liked the message of importance of small things, importance of past, keep looking for answers, find new things in life and find joy we might have lost during the journey of life once again.
My favourite moment in book was conversations between Carole and her daughter about their dead cat, Granny. It was hilarious to read. Only Carole would store dead cat to deep freezer and also cook food put in same freezer. Events from climax to end were lovely and entertaining. I laughed at how simple cat funeral ceremony in family went so wrong and loved seeing changes in not just Carole but also her family and how relationships that seemed teetering in the beginning got back to steady and normal.
Overall, Everyday Magic was refreshing, though-provoking, fun, and heart-warming contemporary, women’s fiction. If you like slow and steady books, archaeology and history, and concept of past memories and how that shape present and future, I highly recommend this book. If you’re stay-at-home parent, you sure can relate to Carole.
Charlie Laidlaw lives in East Lothian, one of the main settings for Everyday Magic. He has four other published novels: Being Alert!, The Space Between Time, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and Love Potions and Other Calamities. Previously a journalist and defence intelligence analyst, Charlie now teaches Creative Writing in addition to his writing career.
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