“Ever heard of the saying, ‘If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen?’ What would you do if this wasn’t just a philosophical suggestion but a blazing fact staring you in the face one morning as you wander downstairs to make yourself a cup of tea?”
Wow- what an opening line I think you’ll agree! Which book is it from, you ask? It is from the sublime Can’t Live Without by the lovely Joanne Phillips!
Can’t Live Without is a contemporary women’s novel that tells the tale of Stella Hill, a hard-working single mother who wakes up one morning to find her kitchen ablaze. Left with no possessions except her gym gear and some slightly curled-up family photos, Stella is faced with the uphill struggle of rebuilding a life for herself and her teenage daughter, Lipsy. No mean feat when you’ve got a spendaholic mother, a father in jail and a boss that you secretly fancy! Add to the mix cleaning-obsessed hunk Joshua, Lipsy’s wayward father who Stella never really got over and bitchy Loretta and you’ve got a heart-warming tale of finding just what it is you Can’t Live Without.
As she sets about making a list of things she Can’t Live Without (a double-door ice-maker fridge freezer, Kenwood mixer etc) Stella’s fragile world becomes ever more complicated. Lipsy, her teenage daughter who hates her for ruining their home, has some big news for her and her mum can’t stop maxing out her credit cards! Good job she has Paul Smart, her handsome boss and best friend whom she secretly fancied as a teenager, to help her sort out the mess. They’re just friends, obviously, although it’s no secret that Stella would love to be more.
Throughout the story, we see not just progress on the house, but with the characters too. The development I found most interesting was Lipsy’s. She begins the story as a material-obsessed teenager but the events that take place in the story force her to grow into a well-rounded young woman with very different priorities. Stella’s development was similarly interesting; she realises by the end of the book that the best things in life are free.
The relationship between Paul and Stella is perhaps my favourite throughout the whole story. They are clearly perfect for each other, though events do conspire against them in the most comical of ways! It’s a warm, affectionate relationship and the reader is given a flavour of the rich history between them. The chemistry between them is wonderfully written and crucially, not contrived. Their interactions stay true to the characters and I found myself shouting “JUST GET TOGETHER!!” at my Kindle more than once!
The theme of material objects runs heavily throughout the story. Stella’s mum buys things she doesn’t need to make up for missing her husband, who is currently in jail. Stela herself is revealed to be a shopaholic and, at the start of the novel, she is only interested in recovering the material objects she lost in the fire. Paul jokes that she would have saved her fridge-freezer before her family photos had she had the chance, but she vehemently denies this. The theme is continued well throughout the story and it is a joy to see the change in perspective of what can make you happy.
As soon as you start Can’t Live Without, I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down. It’s a cleverly written novel that is both funny and serious in all the right places. It’s crammed full of wonderful characters that will linger in your memory long after you reach the end.
My advice- download or buy it now!!