Back in my late 40’s, the walls were closing in. Our adult son had major health issues. His sister was threatening to move to Sri Lanka to become a Buddhist nun, and our youngest was itching to leave home. The provincial newspapers I’d syndicated to for years were dropping my weekly column faster than you could say menopause. In between times, there was the mastectomy.
My women friends were facing challenges, too. Maggie’s husband walked out. Sue’s son was caught taking drugs. Becky, who’d devoted herself to a corporate career, was languishing on the redundancy heap.
We wept together and fretted there was no road map for the second half of life. Our mothers had considered themselves old at 50 - no wonder when a generation before them, in 1900, the average lifespan was just 40 years.
As it turns out, my friends and I were on the brink of the most creative, energized phase of our lives. A decade or so on, I can report Maggie has moved in with her new partner, Annette. Sue’s son is working in a law firm and Becky’s online business is booming.
I decided to honour these women, and give hope to others, with my first novel Tumbledown Manor. Poor Lisa Trumperton has the worst birthday ever when she learns her banker husband is having an affair. On top of that, she’s worried about her daughter’s emotional distance and weight loss. Lisa’s friends are horrified when she decides to flee New York and return to her roots, and a bossy sister, in Australia.
I’ve always been fascinated by grand country houses. In fact, my grandmother lived in one similar to the old family home Lisa buys. The place is crumbling around her ears, and the neighbors are far from friendly. But with help from the Grey Army and an unreliable handy man with the sexiest legs this side of the black stump, Lisa begins to carve out a new life.
Researching Tumbledown Manor was tremendous fun. I hope it brings laughter and optimism to anyone who’s wondering what’s on the other side of a mid life crisis.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my prognosis after breast cancer is great. The Buddhist nun came home to finish her PhD and move in with her boyfriend. Our son is happily married with two daughters. And I stopped writing columns to produce Cleo, a book that has sold two million copies worldwide.
Helen Brown is the author of TUMBLEDOWN MANOR, CLEO and CATS & DAUGHTERS published by Kensington Books. http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/32260
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