Reviewed by Susan Lobban
Unfortunately he never gets the chance as, after a serious illness, Kate dies and Nick has to return to the family home to pick up the pieces. He is left lost and does not really know how to function without Kate by his side. His children are virtual strangers to him and he has no clue about their needs and wants. He chooses the path of late bedtimes and sweets to soothe them, but then he is given a book that Kate left for him, which imparts her motherly knowledge and love.
Nick is determined to go it alone, but it is not long before he realizes that he has to put his own pain and hurt aside in order to do the best for his children. Kate may be gone but she is determined not to be forgotten. She may not have been able to get through to Nick while she was alive, but her last wishes aim to help the family she left behind move on without her.
Right from the start you know you are about to start a rollercoaster of a read. In the prologue we meet loved up couple Nick and Kate, but fast forward a few years and they are separated for some unknown reason and, to make matters worse, Kate is on the brink of death. In what seems like a blink of an eye Nick’s life is irrevocably changed for the worse as he returns to his family home as a widower and a poor substitute parent to his children. You are left bewildered as to why a once happily married couple split up, but flashes to the past provide us with little snippets of information to piece it all together.
Instructions left by those dearly departed has been done before, but Kate leaves more than just details of what the kids like for breakfast. We soon find that she never lost hope completely with her husband and that is what so heartbreaking as she never got to tell him. Amongst the kid tips there are instructions for Nick to go on a number of pre-booked mystery dates. This is ingenious as rather than find her husband love, she wants him to find peace by sending him to blasts from the past with appropriate chaperones.
Obviously as a mum, I can relate to Kate’s desire to leave pointers for those left to care for her children after she dies too soon. Rather than being a morbid, upsetting read, what results is an uplifting, heartwarming story. I laughed, I cried and was genuinely riveted in following Nick’s tentative steps towards becoming the Nick of times past. He may no longer have his wife alongside him, but her presence is strongly felt throughout. Martina Reilly manages to provide a great insight into just how hard it is for one parent to be both mum and dad in such tragic circumstances.