Monday, 18 October 2021

The Woman in the Middle - Milly Johnson

About the book… 

From Sunday Times bestselling author Milly Johnson comes a poignant story about family, responsibility and learning to balance it all.

Sandwich generation [noun]: A generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, responsible both for bringing up their own children and for the care of their ageing parents.

Shay Bastable is the woman in the middle. She is part of the sandwich generation, caring for both her parents and her children as best she can, alongside supporting her husband, Bruce. With her mother’s and father’s health in decline, very little support from her ‘extremely busy’ sister Paula, her son’s wedding just around the corner and her daughter only in touch when she needs money, she’s certainly got a lot on her plate!

Wife, mother, daughter; she has played all her roles dutifully. That is, until a sudden and shocking loss which sends her spiralling to rock bottom. Forced to put herself first for a change, Shay realises that sometimes you have to fall, to find out where you stand.


“A gorgeous, warm novel about friendship and how some people are just meant to be by your side” Adele Parks, Platinum Magazine

“A thought-provoking read that explores what it truly means to love” Woman & Home “Funny, poignant and so uplifting” The Sun

“A heartfelt novel from one of our favourite authors” Bella

“Brimming with Johnson’s usual feelgood factor, this is human nature at its best” My Weekly

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About the author… 

MILLY JOHNSON was born, raised and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. A Sunday Times bestseller, she is one of the Top 10 Female Fiction authors in the UK with millions of copies of her books sold across the world. In 2020, she was honoured with the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Outstanding Achievement Award and was a featured author in the Reading Agency’s Quick Reads and World Book Night campaigns.

A writer who champions women and highlights the importance of friendship and community, Milly’s characters are celebrations of the strength of the human spirit. The Woman in the Middle is her nineteenth novel.

Contact Links: 

Twitter: @millyjohnson

My thoughts…

There is nothing quite like a Milly Johnson book - Milly has perfected the art of portraying real family life with the dynamics and emotions that tie them together in such a way that as a reader you forget you are reading about fictional characters, and not reading about your own friends and family. With each book, from the very first pages I find myself totally hooked and totally invested and immersed in their lives.

I devoured The Woman in the Middle in almost one sitting, I picked it up one evening, read 40 pages and just knew it was going to be brilliant. I settled down the next day to read the remaining 400! The Woman in the Middle is such a heartfelt, relatable story - Milly has the words and analogies that just sums everything up perfectly. Sandwiched between family and work pressures it’s easy to forget to care for yourself too - my emotions yo - yo’d whist reading, she touched so many raw nerves, throughout the book that at times I found myself reading with a lump in my throat that I couldn’t swallow. I think The Woman in the Middle evoked in me every emotion possible from one end of the spectrum to the other. So many aspects of family life tackled in a thought provoking way.

The central character is Shay Bastable, a woman with a backbone of steel, and a heart of gold, her whole life is centred on administering care and support for her whole family. Mostly unnoticed and without thanks. Shay is described as part of the sandwich generation - a term I’d never heard before but totally understood as the story unfolded. She is stuck, sandwiched in the middle, somewhere between caring for her two elderly parents and that of her grown up children who having flown the nest appear to have dropped off her radar. Let’s also not forget Bruce, her husband too.

I absolutely loved Shay, but wanted to give her a push to add ‘herself’ into the equation, she was totally selfless - the needs and lives of her family uttermost in her every thought and action, never asking for anything for herself nor seeking pity for a life of giving - she personified the best mother, daughter, wife role. Caring for her family was uppermost in her mind, she never put herself first, she saw her role in the family and fullfilled it.

Shay visits her mum everyday, providing essential care for her Roberta, left to do it alone by sister Paula, she doesn’t have time in her day. Roberta has dementia and becomes fixated on the arrival of a skip next door, the name on the side triggering memories. This sets off a chain of events that turns both their lives upside down and subsequently the inter-family relationships, irrevocably on their head. Relationships, friendships and family life are reassessed as Shay finds herself going back to her past to understand her present and subsequently shape her future.

As much as this was a heartfelt, emotional read for me it was also hopeful and uplifting at the same time, shining light on the dark moments, life evolves and nothing and no one stays the same forever. Milly tastefully scattered a liberal amount of humour throughout to soften the edges, and as the story ended I was left with a lighter heart and a smile on my face. Thank you Milly Johnson for yet another beautiful story about relationships, family dynamics, love and friendship delivered in your usual open, honest, straight-forward style - just perfect. 

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