The Woman in the Middle

By Milly Johnson

Shay had too much of a past history of being honourable, a good girl who flew under the radar so she wouldn’t upset any more applecarts, who stood in the shadows propping up those who wanted to stand in the sun.
But Mrs Nice Guy was having a day off today.

Milly has done it again! Shay is a wife and mother of two grown children and is in her mid-forties. She is also caring for her beloved mother who, though she lives alone, is in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s. Shay goes to her house almost every day to do what needs to be done. Her father is in a coma in a care home and Shay visits him faithfully. There is something wrong with her marriage of 24 years. Although everything is OK on the surface, she and her husband have not had sex in months. Her feisty (too feisty)free spirit of a daughter keeps going back to a bad boyfriend and is struggling financially and career-wise. Her sweet and gentle son has given up his art and gotten himself engaged to a controlling older woman. And her sister is a selfish piece of….work.

Shay, who is a lovely woman both inside and out, is in the middle, trying to keep everyone around her afloat with no help from anyone. Yet, though she is put upon, she is not a doormat. (Yay!) She seems like a real person. Someone you could really know, and whose challenges many women will relate to. The reader realizes long before Shay does that her husband is a lost cause and is not worthy of her. We also know that there is a tragic secret in her past that changed the direction of her life and separated her from her first love: a love she still yearns for in unguarded moments. As her mother reaches the end, secrets are revealed which further turn her life upside down. Her marriage is irretrievably broken and Shay goes back to her childhood home to try to heal.

Milly’s style continues to move forward from the template that served her so well for years. Shay is a woman rising like a phoenix from a difficult situation. That is a familiar theme to her readership. But the story is more realistic and her writing is more thoughtful and leisurely. The book is funny and full of lovable and sympathetic characters as well as dastardly villains. Yes, there are moments of high drama and plenty of justice to be meted out, to be sure, but everything is more down-to-earth and not so extreme. There is wit and humor, but very little rambunctious comedy. There is eventually a sweet romance, but it is there only to complete Shay’s journey to a happy fulfilled life.

I love the old Milly-style, but I also love the more evolved Milly. Wherever she goes next, I am there.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

October 23, 2021

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