Title: Just The Way You Are
Author: Beth Moran
Published on: 17 February 2022
Genre: Contemporary Fiction | Women’s Fiction
Olivia Tennyson aka Ollie was sixteen when she wrote a Dream List of all the things she wanted in her life – including a Dream Man and happy married life. But life had other plans for her. Fast forward to the present, Ollie lives with her overly controlling and manipulative mother. Ollie has almost lost her hopes in living the Dream Life.
When her mother creates a fuss for not spending a quiet dinner with her on Valentine’s Day, Ollie realizes enough is enough. She makes a plan – with the support of her best friend, Steph. She decides to move out and live on her own. But this cannot happen overnight. So Ollie introduces her mother to Karina, a client she met at ReadUp. Then, Karina tells the Tennysons that her landlord might throw her out and she has no place to live.
Ollie moves out of her mother’s home – not a pretty sight, this. Her mother fakes a chest pain or two so that her daughter cancels her plan of becoming an independent and strong woman. But Ollie refuses to budge.
As she starts living in a cottage of her own, things initially seem quite straight forward. Well, almost straight forward. The librarian is not very friendly, the next-door neighbor hardly has time for her young daughter and the old man living across the road is not at all friendly. Ollie also meets Sam – a handsome hunk of a man. But she’s on a No-Man Mandate. This means, until she crosses off her all the points from her Dream List, no dating and no kissing.
The whole point of following the list is to let Ollie find herself first. Do the things she’s always wanted to, love the life her way – and not her mother’s way.
It was annoying to see how Ollie’s mother used manipulative methods to control her daughter’s life. Ollie is almost thirty but single. She almost married once – Johnathan and Ollie had dated for a while before he proposed. But her mother ‘conveniently’ fell sick at the same time. Johnathan waited for a couple of years before deciding he cannot wait forever.
Even when Ollie moves out, her mother creates a scene. She doesn’t talk to Ollie the day she’s moving out. And then starts bombarding her with frantic calls and messages – just trying to move she needs her daughter and her daughter cannot survive in the ‘big bad world’ without her mother.
Ollie then meets Joan, her next-door neighbor. Joan’s mother Leanne is a cleaner and hardly has time to spend with her young daughter. Joan and Ollie bond over books. Then, Joan brings Nesbit – an abandoned dog that Joan adopted. Joan’s mum does not allow her to keep the dog so Ollie adopts it.
Throughout the story, we see Steph (Ollie’s best friend) support her. Steph encourages Ollie to go through with the Dream List as well as remind her of the No-Man Mandate when Ollie finds Sam hot. Sam and Ollie soon become friends but it is quite clear that both of them want something more from their relationship.
Ebenezer, Ollie’s grumpy neighbor keeps sending her notes – from ‘keep your lawn clean’ to ‘be there for Leanne and Joan’ (when Leanne falls sick). Ollie almost goes back to her old habit of looking after someone – it is so easy to go back to old habits, especially when facing situations similar to past experiences.
Overall, Just The Way You Are by Beth Moran was an interesting and charming read. I loved the writing and the character portrayals. I have to mention character development too – I only have praises and more of it. It was so good to see Ollie grow – out from co-dependency relationship to a strong and independent woman; It wasn’t easy but she made it through. The ending was good, a twist or two which I wasn’t quite happy with (something to do with Sam and Joan) but I am happy with how things ended up for Ollie.
If you are looking for an uplifting and charming read, I recommend you to give Just The Way You Are by Beth Moran a try.
Pact! The mother reminds of the similarly manipulative one in the Richmal Crompton I read last year. There it was the son she manipulated and he had to end a relationship because of similar behaviour
It is good to see that people are talking about manipulative parenting via books. I suppose it takes a lot of courage to break such a toxic relationship.
There was something similar in Richard Hull’s Murder of my Aunt – the protagonist hates his aunt. But as the story ends, the aunt makes an entry in the diary – the protagonist had a hereditary mental illness that made him paranoid.
This is different from your usual reads.
Yes. I want to move out of comfort zone so trying chicklit and romance for the 20 books of summer challenge 😊