The Day of Second Chances by Julie Cohen

Rating: ★★★★★

The Day of Second Chances presents three women at different stages of their lives, each with a secret that they will do anything to keep to themselves:

  • Honor is 80 years old and prides herself on her independence, but her secret may take this away from her
  • Jo is a single mum, and strives to keep her two toddlers and teenage daughter happy, but her secret may change everything for her family
  • Lydia is Jo’s daughter and about to sit her GCSEs – her secret might bring her love, but it might also mean losing her best friend forever

When Honor has an accident and has to temporarily move in with Jo, her daughter-in-law, the lives of these three women collide, and their secrets are gradually revealed to the world and to each other, with unexpected consequences.

It was sort of amazing how knowing one simple fact about a person could change your entire perspective of what they were like

The Day of Second Chances is a novel about judgements – how we judge others, how we want to be perceived by others, and how we are actually seen.  First impressions can often be misleading, but opinions built up over time may also be wrong – we base our opinions on what we know, but this isn’t always enough to make a fair judgement.  Honor and Jo have a strained relationship.  Jo’s first husband, Stephen, was Honor’s only child, and died ten years ago.  Since then, Jo has made the obligatory seasonal visits, mostly for the sake of the children, staying only as long as politeness demands.  She has always believed that Honor does not like her, and did not think her good enough for her son.  Having Honor under her roof is a strain, and yet the two come to understand each other so well, you can’t help but share their regret that they weren’t able to bond earlier.

there was a sort of freedom in hopelessness.  It let you look for other, new things to hope for.

Sometimes things do not work out as we might hope.  And sometimes, this is for the best, however painful it may seem at the time.  While Lydia is unable to confide in her mother, she does eventually open up to Honor, and she begins to see the similarities in their lives.  Stephen was conceived as the result of an affair with a married man, and Honor never told the father that she had become pregnant with his child, unwilling to tear his family apart.  Whilst Lydia’s situation is very different to Honor’s, she comes to realise that sometimes we must make sacrifices and occasionally settle for what feels like second best, as we can’t always have the thing that we want.

I finished this novel feeling as though I’d been torn apart and then put back together again.  I felt bruised, but I was left with the feeling that, no matter how bad things might seem, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and there are second chances for all of us, no matter what.

The Day of Second Chances will be published on 28 July in the UK by Black Swan, an imprint of Transworld.  Many thanks to Sarah Harwood for the ARC.

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