My enormous thanks to Annabelle Wright at ED PR for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Milly Johnson’s nineteenth novel, The Woman in the Middle. It’s a real privilege to start off the tour by sharing my review.
I’m such a fan of Milly, and you’ll find her featured on Linda’s Book Bag many times:
I’ve a review of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day here
My review of The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew is here.
Milly was kind enough to write a piece for Linda’s Book Bag when The Mother of All Christmases was released in a post available here.
I have my review of another of Milly’s books, The Perfectly Imperfect Woman, here.
The Woman in the Middle will be published by Simon and Schuster on 14th October and is available for pre-order through the links here.
The Woman in the Middle
The emotional, uplifting and completely relatable new novel from Sunday Times bestseller Milly Johnson.
Shay Bastable is the woman in the middle. She is part of the sandwich generation – caring for her parents and her children, supporting her husband Bruce, holding them all together and caring for them as best she can.
Then the arrival of a large orange skip on her mother’s estate sets in motion a cataclysmic series of events which leads to the collapse of Shay’s world. She is forced to put herself first for a change.
But in order to move forward with her present, Shay needs to make sense of her past. And so she returns to the little village she grew up in, to uncover the truth about what happened to her when she was younger. And in doing so, she discovers that sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to find the only way is up.
My Review of The Woman in the Middle
Shay’s trying to keep all the plates spinning.
A confession. I wasn’t sure to begin with that I was going to love The Woman in the Middle as much as I have other books by Milly Johnson. I needn’t have worried. It wasn’t long before I found myself completely ensnared in Shay’s life, laughing and crying as I read because of Milly Johnson’s absolute ability to shine a light on real people, their hopes, their dreams and their realities. In fact, I think I was a bit resistant at the start because I found so much to resonate with me that it made for slightly uncomfortable reading. Whilst I don’t have the marital situation or the children of Shay’s life, I’d defy any reader not to find echoes of their own thoughts and feelings in the pages of this book; echoes so deftly presented by the author who manages to present humanity with such caring compassion.
The plot of The Woman in the Middle is absolutely brilliant and I’d love to see it as a Sunday evening winter television series as it has all the elements to rival any other such production. It has several dramatic moments that add entertaining dynamism, but it is the quieter aspects, Shay’s thoughts and the mundane elements of a woman’s life that are the real strength here. The Woman in the Middle is about the difficult process of rationalising and accepting our pasts, of being comfortable in our own skin without becoming complacent, of supporting without being overbearing, of living our own lives and allowing others to live theirs. The warmth of Milly Johnson’s writing illustrates these elements perfectly but at the same time she isn’t afraid to show her readers the full extent of her characters’ personalities. Shay might be the heroine of the story but she is by no means perfect. She can be quick to speak, rash and frustrating, as well as thoughtful, loving and supportive so that I cared about her all the more as a result. There’s a depth and range across all the characters with both men and women equally treated so that The Woman in the Middle feels balanced and true to life.
Although to comment on all the themes would be to spoil the story, Milly Johnson tackles some big issues here in The Woman in the Middle. Again, there is a glorious balance of darkness and light with a down-to-earth approach that I found so engaging. What struck me most was the underlying message of kindness that weaves through the story. Sometimes that kindness is mis-placed despite being well-meaning and there are consequences, but nothing can detract from the warmth of this book. Kindness to others and to ourselves is key, but I genuinely felt that in writing The Woman in the Middle Milly Johnson has brought kindness to her readers, giving them permission to put themselves first on occasion and helping them to realise it isn’t always necessary to make yourself the filling in a sandwich of duty and responsibility.
I may have begun The Woman in the Middle a little uncertainly, but I ended it feeling uplifted, included and as if Milly Johnson had taken a long look into my head and decided exactly what I needed to read to make the world a better place for me. The Woman in the Middle is a restorative book – and not just for the characters! Don’t miss it.
About Milly Johnson
Milly Johnson was born, raised and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
A Sunday Times bestseller, she is one of the Top 10 Female Fiction authors in the UK with millions of copies of her books sold across the world. In 2020, she was honoured with the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Outstanding Achievement Award and was a featured author in the Reading Agency’s Quick Reads and World Book Night campaigns.
A writer who champions women and highlights the importance of friendship and community, Milly’s characters are celebrations of the strength of the human spirit. The Woman in the Middle is her nineteenth novel.
The Woman in the Middle by Milly Johnson is published on 14th October by Simon & Schuster in hardback, eBook and audiobook. Milly will be joining My Weekly for a virtual event on Thursday 21st October at 7pm – register for free here.