Title: Can’t Live Without
Author: Joanne Phillips
Publisher: Mirrorball Books
Genre: Contemporary fiction
This is a sleek, beautifully crafted novel about Stella, a thirty-seven-year-old single mother with a sixteen-year-old daughter, and a boss who’s been her best friend ever since the father of her child walked out on her many years ago. She’s known Paul since they were kids. She even had a crush on him once, and they have the easy kind of relationship that comes from being truly good friends.
Stella is instantly likable, self reliant and rather stubborn. Paul is an adorable confirmed bachelor whose life turns out not to be as simple as he thought. Although romance is a big factor in this story, it’s much more than that. The story is told from the points of view of Paul, Stella and the teenage daughter, and it delves into the kind of issues that face most people in their situations.
Unlike much romantic fiction, there’s also plenty of action to keep you interested. The story begins with Stella’s house burning down, followed by a new relationship with an obsessive compulsive neighbour, the re-appearance of a no-good ex and an estranged brother, the surprise revelation of an imprisoned father, an unplanned-for pregnancy, a tense evening in the hospital and an embarrassing incidence that causes a damaging assumption.
Ten weeks of bad luck Stella calls it, except that it isn’t all bad news because during this series of events, Stella grows, truths come out and relationships are healed. It all culminates in exactly the kind of end such a story requires. There’s simple, but important, wisdom at its core. Ultimately, it’s about not taking things at face value and the importance of being emotionally honest with yourself and others.
This is the kind of warm-hearted contemporary fiction that would be enjoyed by a wide readership. 5 stars.