Today I am delighted to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for Angelena Boden’s The Future Can’t Wait. This tragically gripping emotional roller coaster ride will have you cursing, grieving, and grasping at straws but it’s themes are so timely and hard hitting that it’s an absolute must read. In addition to my regular review, today I also have the pleasure of sharing a guest post by the lovely Angelena Boden focusing on location and context – which is particularly fitting as being a Canadian blogger I only know of Birmingham what is presented through skewed, filtered, and highly biased news.
Title: The Future Can’t Wait
Author: Angelena Boden
Publisher: Urbane Publications
Publication Date: November 2, 2017
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Themes: Families, Racism, Grief, Social Dynamics
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….
SETTING FOR MY NOVEL – BIRMINGHAM? WHY NOT BALI?
Going back to my teens, I remember hiding under my bedcovers to gorge on Mills and Boon romances. Oh the mystical settings of Paris and Rome and the exotic islands of Mauritius and Madagascar would fill my head with travels to come. The future was bright. The future was…. Not BIRMINGHAM!
This is the second novel I have set against the background of England’s second largest city mainly because I lived in Bournville, chocolate-land, for almost thirty years and am in tune with the city’s pulse. In addition I am a passionate defender of a city I feel is misunderstood. Rather than give you a history lesson, here are a few quirky facts about a city I once called home.
- Birmingham means home (ham) of the people (ing) of the tribal leader, Beorma.
- It has more miles of canals than Venice. Birmingham 35, Venice 26. So you know where to have your next holiday.
- Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, spent his childhood in the tiny village of Sarehole, South Birmingham. The Shire, home of Bilbo in the Hobbit is said to have been modelled on this place.
- James Watt, (who gave his name to our measurement of light output) lived in Birmingham 1775-1819 and developed the steam engine. He and Matthew Boulton, engineer, manufacturer and Watt’s business partner, “sold” the industrial revolution to the world. Watt also invented the letter copying machine, forerunner of the photocopier.
- John Baskerville gave his name to a typeface in the 1750s. He started out as a teacher of calligraphy but his greatest ambition was to print books of the utmost quality.
- Tony Hancock, Jasper Carrot and Benjamin Zephaniah all hail from Brum (among others).
- Birmingham is home to many past and present rock bands including Ocean Colour Scene, Duran Duran, ELO, UB40 and Black Sabbath.
- Be green with envy when you know that the city has more parks than any other European city, six million trees and a dozen or more gold medals from Britain in Bloom and the Chelsea Flower Show.
- Birmingham was known as the city of a 1,000 trades and of course everybody knows the story of Cadbury and the Longbridge car plant which produced the Mini.
- I can’t end this hot list without mentioning some other famous writers connected to Birmingham. From the same part of the city as me came The Reverend Wilbert Vere Awdry, creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, curate in Kings Norton. Lee Child grew up in Brum and Arthur Conan Doyle spent several months a year in Aston from 1879-1882.
Several scenes in The Future Can’t Wait are set in The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield, seven miles north of Birmingham, locally known as Sutton. It’s a wealthy part of the city and was historically part of Warwickshire until 1974 when it got absorbed into the West Midlands. Like the rest of Birmingham it has a long and interesting history and continually attracts people who are looking to move into a more rural area without losing the amenities of a large city.
An old-fashioned romance in the book develops in Sutton Park, a 2,400 Natural Nature reserve boasting woodland, seven lakes, wetland and marches bursting with a rich variety of wildlife. Cattle and ponies graze on the land and the park attracts model plane enthusiasts, cyclists, walkers and families. No doubt many a romantic tryst is carried out in the woodlands.
I chose this part of the city for the book because it presents a stereotype to the world of predominantly white, middle-class, well to do Britain. Take a walk through neighbouring Four Oaks to see what I mean. We live in a time when assumptions are made about all sorts of people and in my own humble way, I wanted to show that we can be very much mistaken.
I lived in a smart (read white) part of multi-cultural Birmingham with an Iranian husband and two olive skinned children. Any comments directed towards us were couched in patronising tones at dinner parties. Here’s one example from 1989. “Your daughter speaks very good English.” There’s no answer to that is there?
This was, in all honesty, one of the hardest books I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year. It was not hard because of the writing style or length, but because it was so raw and gritty that I had to take breaks in order to digest everything that was going on.
Kendra was such a vulnerable and fragile lead, and she showcased perfectly how anyone can be blindsided by loss and grief. I enjoyed the irony of her professional background and subject matter in class in relation to her own personal traumas, and marvelled at her willingness to engage with psychics despite her better judgement. I constantly found myself thinking that for a psychologist Kendra wasn’t exactly the best with people, but that doesn’t alway mean we’re capable of practicing what we preach! I really enjoyed that the story was told from her point of view however, and I appreciated the depths of her emotions. Kendra’s grief process felt all to real, and I certainly don’t think she would have made it trough without that one good friend (and a good cuppa tea) to keep her on track.
I don’t think that I could have been more angry with Ariana for her decisions, regardless of whether or not she felt smothered or felt like David had interfered in her life. And I say this from that standpoint of someone who actually and legitimately moved to the other side of the world as soon as I was legally able in order to gain some space and figure out who the heck I was. But at the same time, my parents always knew that I was safe, how to get in touch with me (phone, email, address or itinerary), and that my choice wasn’t one made to spite them. That ending though! I would have screamed… and maybe slapped someone. But I do suppose that it truly embodies the selfishness that has come to epitomize an entire generation. Regardless, I was delighted by the fact that Kendra finally had something to look forward to in becoming a grandmother, and that she had finally moved through her grief process into seeing a future that was a little brighter.
My only complaint is that we never got to hear David’s decision from his time in Pembrokeshire. This is one loose end that I really would have liked to have seen wrapped up. But, at the same time, sometimes we don’t have the chance to say all the things we want to before life gets in the way. I really loved David’s character though, as he made this novel diverse on more than just one level. His quirk, routines, and what I read as innocence served to break the tension that otherwise would have made this read overwhelming.
As for location, I think that the choice of Birmingham was absolutely perfect. Having lived in the UK twice now, I have heard a great deal about the stigma and tensions surrounding the city. Even though Kendra’s family is removed slightly in their wealthy suburb, the impact of fear mongering and radicalized racial tensions truly are inescapable. And with the contemporary detail of the Brexit referendum and I can only imagine what the tension on the pages would have read as for someone who actually experience the run up to that vote. It’s those little, grounding details that really hit home for me and made me feel as though I was right there as well.
Would I recommend this book? In a heartbeat! It is the kind of poignant, relevant contemporary literature that we need to engage with. The Future Can’t Wait is beautifully written and encapsulates all off the ups and downs of the grieving process in the most realistic way. Powerful and heavy-hitting, you don’t need to know a thing about Birmingham to appreciate the context as this is the type of tale that is truly universal.
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.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AngelenaBoden @AngelenaBoden
Many thanks to Angelena Boden and Urbane Publications for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review, and to Abby Fairbrother-Slater @annebonnybooks for arranging this fabulous blog tour.