Book Review: The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly

The Family Gift…

About the Book:

Freya Abalone has a big, messy, wonderful family, a fantastic career, and a new house.

But that’s on the outside.

On the inside, she’s got Mildred – the name she’s given to that nagging inner critic who tells us all we’re not good enough.

And now Freya’s beloved blended family is under threat. Dan’s first wife Elisa, the glamorous, manipulative woman who happily abandoned her daughter to Freya and Dan’s care and left the country, has elbowed her way back into their lives.

But Freya knows that when life gives you lemons, you throw them right back.

..Can Freya put her family – and herself – back together? Find out in Cathy Kelly’s warmest, wisest and funniest book yet…

My Thoughts:

I’ve been a long-time fan of Cathy Kelly’s books but I have to say that in this instance, I disagree with the blurb for this book. The Family Gift was, in my opinion, not even close to being Cathy Kelly’s wisest or funniest book; unfortunately, for me, it was her most boring.

The majority of Cathy Kelly books that I’ve read previously have always alternated between a few women, however with this one, we were stuck with Freya, the main character, the entire time. The story is also told in the first person, and while sometimes this works, in this case it really didn’t. This was a clunky kind of read, repetitive and constantly listing the same things over. There seemed to be this real need to remind the reader what Freya always looked like and what everybody else always looked like, and it just got boring quite frankly. There were also some really awkward observations made by Freya which made the narrative seem very unnatural. Here’s an example:

‘I hugged her for a full minute, feeling her lovely ballerina style bones against mine and I marvel at how quickly she’s growing up.
She has small breasts now, although they embarrass her. She gets regular periods: “Every month?” she said when I explained menstruation when she was younger.
She wants privacy too, now. My eldest child is moving further away from me and it hurts so much.’

Just zero in there on that middle paragraph about the size of her daughter’s breasts. I’m not quite sure where this is even coming from, and it’s this kind of thing that just really hampers my ability to let go and get into a story. I find myself instead questioning where the author’s head is at and why I’m even reading such a thing. You might also be able to note from this example that clunkiness that I was talking about, where the narrative just doesn’t flow with the nice natural ease that usually ensures success with use of a first-person perspective.

Freya herself was a pretty annoying character if I’m perfectly honest. I really tried to get into her but there was just something about her that was just getting on my nerves. Being constantly in her head and not having the ability to switch to another person to get a break really hampered my ability to just settle in and enjoy this novel.

The Family Gift is a novel of domestic drama, set in Ireland, but distinctly lacking that trademark Irish humour that I usually look for from Irish authors. This could just be a case of ‘it’s not the book, it’s me’, as on Goodreads there’s quite a lot of high ratings for this novel, many around the four star mark. I tried, I really did, but sometimes even an old favourite just doesn’t work out.


Thanks extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of The Family Gift for review.

About the Author:

Cathy Kelly is a number one international bestselling author. She worked as a journalist before becoming a novelist, and has published eleven novels. She is an Ambassador for Unicef in Ireland, helping to raise awareness of the plight of twelve million children orphaned across Africa through AIDS. She lives in Wicklow with her family.

The Family Gift
Published by Hachette Australia – Orion
Released October 2019

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Family Gift by Cathy Kelly

  1. I normally quite like Cathy Kelly, as she reminds me of Maeve Binchy, whom I went through a bit of a phase with around 10 years ago. It sounds like she has attempted to vary her usual structure and formula for her latest novel, but it has maybe backfired. There is a lot to be said for sticking with what you know as a writer, and I will probably pass on this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I found Cathy Kelly for the same reason! She filled a void left by having read all of Maeve Binchy’s books. I agree with you. I understand why writers might get bored and want to shake up their style, but it doesn’t always work out.


  2. Thank goodness for your honest review. I thought I was going nuts. I’ve devoured every single Cathy Kelly novel. So excited to see a new release. Sadly I’m finding reading this novel excruciating. I’m near the end and still couldn’t care less about Freya. How can this be a Cathy Kelly novel?

    Liked by 1 person

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