*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review. I read/review and write Q&As, before I agree to organise a blog tour*
The Future Can’t Wait by Angelena Boden
The Future Can’t Wait is a contemporary novel set in multicultural Birmingham against a background of growing radicalisation of young people sympathetic to Islamic State. Kendra Blackmore’s half Iranian daughter Ariana (Rani) undergoes an identity crisis which results in her cutting off all contact with her family. Sick with worry and desperate to understand why her home loving daughter would do this, Kendra becomes increasingly desperate for answers – and to bring her estranged daughter home….
The novel opens in contemporary, multicultural Birmingham. With its mix of cultures and heritage, the location provides the perfect backdrop. Kendra Blackmore a lecturer at the Darwin Academy; is delivering a guest speech, in a lecture regarding psychology. She is widely respected in her field. The crowd are in awe of her ability to relate sympathies to the Islamic State with neuroscience and an individual’s susceptibility to make certain choices.
Kendra returns home to her husband David. He is quite an oddball in his nature but a loving stepfather to her two children. Eldest son Adam is a respected Dr himself, currently living in Boston, USA. Daughter Ariana (Rani), is quite complex young madam! She is currently in the final months of her Astrophysics degree and facing huge exam pressure/stress. She is cleverly a very bright and talented young woman, at the beginning of her adult life. However, she is often moody, immature and prone to outburst towards her mother. I found the mother and daughter relationship, very intriguing!
The way Kendra smothers her daughter, whilst allowing her to be so verbally abusive towards her.
But we have all known such relationships exist.
The background of Kendra’s first marriage is fully explored. With Kendra wondering if this is why, Rani is so distant. Does rani blame her mother for the divorce and having an absent father? Rani continues to push her mother away and Kendra’s desperate attempts to bring her closer only lead to further rows. With Rani becoming suffocated, until the day she leaves. Rani sends her mother a note, cutting off all contact.
It is quite spitefully done and has the reader, questioning Rani’s motives for such a malicious act.
The note and abandonment dominate Kendra’s life. She becomes obsessed and her life slowly unravels. It was at this point I questioned the dynamics, they have the appearance of the perfect middle class family but under the surface, there’s a lot going on! No-one truly knows what goes on in another person’s family. Their inner secrets and shared pain. From the viewpoint of family relationships, this novel offers up, much food for thought!
“The past can be dangerous territory”
Kendra’s obsessions about her daughter build and build. Upon finding some leaflets, in her daughter’s bedroom. She becomes convinced her daughter has been at risk of radicalisation. Messages in Arabic and friendship with a Persian student, add fuel to Kendra’s fire!
She becomes a woman on a mission to find her daughter at all costs………..
As Rani is an adult, she cannot consult the police or authorities until she learns more and gathers more proof. This leads her to an almost breakdown and the devastation of her family.
There are themes of fascism, vulnerability, miseducation, isolation, risk, unity, innocence and maturity within this novel. They are tactfully and sensitively explored. I felt the young adults ‘coming of age’ in this novel are really struggling. With the dark side of the disenfranchised youth of today, fully demonstrated. Kendra struggles to assess how she missed or failed to notice her own daughter’s unhappiness.
But how well do we ever know, those whom we profess to love the most, our children!
What sort of mother does that make me then?”
This novel follows the story of an intelligent woman, whom appears to have it all. We watch her lose something so precious to her, her daughters love and understanding. The aftermath proving so traumatic, it sets off a chain of events. Kendra won’t always make the choices, you think she will or have the thoughts you think she should and that is what makes this novel perfect for book groups. There are a wealth of issues/themes up for debate. The characters are relatable and believable. I would urge book groups to focus on the responses of those in the family and what they themselves would do.
“Ego is the only requirement to destroy any relationship”
Q) The novel opens in contemporary multicultural Birmingham. What made you decide on this location and era, to tell this story?
A) I lived in different areas of Birmingham for almost thirty years and raised my dual heritage children there – I prefer that term to mixed race. I have seen the changes over the years and am saddened to witness today’s tensions in a city which has prided itself on fostering harmonious relationships between the many communities. I wanted to show that things are not always what the media like to make them out to be and that Birmingham is a decent city in which to live and raise a family. I chose a well-to-do suburb of the city as the setting for the book for reasons that hopefully will become clear to the readers.
Q) The mother and daughter relationship is extremely authentic. As I regard in my review, we have all known such relationships take place. What was the inspiration behind this?
A) Many mother-daughter relationships become fraught as the daughter moves into adulthood. This often coincides with major changes for the mother – physical and emotional. The empty nest can be viewed with anticipation and excitement by some but with fear and trepidation by others. I know of many mothers who have really struggled with this. Me included.
Q) The novel deals with the theme of parental abandonment and Kendra’s response to such abandonment. Was this emotionally draining to write? Did it you see the situation through the eyes of the characters themselves?
A) Very draining as I was actually writing from a degree of personal experience. I plan to write about this in more detail in a blog. It took seven drafts to get the balance of the story right for the readers. I could really feel Kendra’s shock and pain and was writing for her. I was in tears many times and had to put the book aside. David’s character was a pleasure to create as my husband is just like him J As far as Rani is concerned I could relate to being her age, many moons ago but more importantly I wrote the book when I was experiencing the tidal waves of my own daughter’s estrangement in 2012 -15.
Q) The novel also depicts family secrets and what goes on behind closed doors. This would be tricky to research, yet is the basis for many novels in this genre. I think your novel is exceptionally unique. From your point of view, as a writer, why are secrets/lies themes so intriguing to the reader?
A) I really didn’t do any research because there were so many secrets in my own immediate family surrounding both my daughters at the time but particularly the younger one that I often felt I was writing more of a memoir. Many families have the proverbial skeleton in the wardrobe and I think we, as readers, are gripped by the intrigue. However not all secrets are revealed in real life or fiction!
Q) The novel depicts Rani’s coming of age and also the disenfranchised youth of today in general, very well. What was the inspiration behind this theme?
A) Young people in the 18-25 age group have never had things so difficult in many respects despite the technology and material stuff many of them have. Parents generally want to see their children do better than they have done – jobs, homes, quality of life but for many this isn’t happening. Frustration and anger has been building up for a while, especially in cities where there has been a target for this – often a minority group gets blamed. In addition we have a generational clash, greater than ever, as my generation had free university education, career progression and the chance to own our own houses from an early age. As a specialist in behaviour I have been tracking these sociological changes for a number of years. More young people present with depression and anxiety at a time they are starting out in life. The pressure to succeed and compete is greater than ever.
Q) One thing that fascinated me, was that Kendra never responded to a situation as I would have predicted. She often made irrational and confusing choices. Was this intentional, to show how we react when emotions are involved?
A) We are really looking at a grief reaction and as you know it is different for everyone. Some cope by blocking it out and getting on with their lives. Others feel the pain more deeply and become paralysed by it. All of us need support when tragedy strikes.
We are all capable of descending into a sort of madness or obsession when we lose something very precious. To answer the last part of your question – yes it was intentional. I hope to encourage more empathy and understanding from those who might say – “I would not have reacted in that way.” There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
It’s a good topic for discussion!
Q) Finally, what are you working on next? Will we see more of Kendra and Rani’s story?
A) Edna’s Death Café is finished and is resting on my desk for the second edit. The main character is an 80 year old woman who goes to university in her seventies and studies Philosophy and Death. She runs a café in a village in my own county of Derbyshire and sets up meetings to talk about death and dying. It’s a light take on a serious, still taboo, subject. The Death Café movement is growing around the UK.
I do have Rani’s story in mind if readers are keen to find out what has happened to her. It wasn’t planned as a sequel but I would feel very privileged to write it if readers requested it.
AB: Thank you so much Abby for this opportunity to talk about The Future Can’t Wait and for the blog tour.
Book club discussion Questions:
1) How well did you engage with the book?
2) What were your feelings about the main characters? Kendra, David, Rani, Adam, Marco. How authentic were they?
3) The key theme is the mother-daughter relationship. Why is this so fraught? If you don’t have a daughter, think about the relationship with your mother/mother-figure.
4) Did Kendra act/react to her daughter’s disappearance in the way you expected? Why/Why not? How would you have handled it?
5) Where did Kendra’s main sources of support come from? How did they help?
6) What are your impressions of David? Is he just a grumpy old man in his shed or is there something else about him?
7) Another theme is the struggle of young people into adult hood. Why is this such a problem these days? Think back to when you were young. Compare the challenges.
8) What are your thoughts on turning to psychics and mediums for help during difficult times? Have you ever done this?
9) We often jump to conclusions when faced with a shock as our emotions are heightened. What did you conclude about Rani’s disappearance?
10) Were you disappointed that the author didn’t reveal Rani’s story in this book? Would you be interested in a sequel?
Angelena Boden (M.Soc.Sc PGDE) has spent thirty five years as an international training consultant, specialising in interpersonal skills and conflict resolution. She trained in Transactional Analysis, the psychology of communication and behaviour, her preferred tool for counselling and coaching.
Since retiring from training, she runs a coaching practice in Malvern for people who are going through transition periods in their life; divorce, empty nesting, redundancy or coping with difficult situations at work, home and within the wider family.
Angelena has two half Iranian daughters and has extensive experience of helping mixed nationality couples navigate problems in their marriages.
She is the author of The Cruelty of Lambs, a novel about psychological domestic abuse. Her new book, The Future Can’t Wait tackles the breakdown of a mother and daughter relationship within a cross cultural context. It is published by Urbane Publications and is out in November 2017.
*The Future Can’t Wait, is available for just 99p on Kindle Ebook and is free to members of Kindle Unlimited*