Each month our book expert, Sam Eades, reviews and recommends books that she believes will be loved by new and expectant parents. This month she’s reviewed ‘You Can Take Her Home Now’ by Anna Jefferson (pictured)…
Billed as “a hilarious, relatable story of motherhood and friendship”, You Can Take Her Home Now by Anna Jefferson was the first book I read after the birth of my daughter. A little shellshocked from a lengthy labour, I wanted to feel more like my old self by reading a book. After several failed attempts to start some weighty prizewinners, I downloaded Anna’s debut novel which follows new mum Emily as she navigates the trials and trauma of the first year of motherhood. As an anxious new mum I was apprehensive reading about what lay ahead, but from the very first page I fell hard for our hero Emily who reminded me of Bridget Jones. Here she is on the moment she arrived home with her new baby:
“Since we’d found out I was pregnant, we’d started to get our shit together without even realising we were doing it. We bought our flat, which, disappointingly, had stunk of fags and wet dog when we first moved in. But we’d cleaned it and painted it, bought new carpets, learnt how to bleed a radiator and bought a Quentin Blake print of the BFG for the nursery. And this was what it was all for. So we could bring our new baby home. But what are we actually meant to do now? Nick and I look at each other and smile weakly as I shrug at him. ‘I have absolutely no idea.”
You Can Take Her Home Now is achingly relatable, funny, honest and warm. On TV and in books, birth is seen as the final chapter, the happy ending. Few stories show you what to expect after you are expecting – in what is known as the fourth trimester. Through Emily we experience the slow physical recovery after birth and the effect it has on her self-esteem, the strain parenting puts on her relationship with partner Nick, and her feelings of inadequacy compared to local mums. There is also lots of humour too, from breastfeeding mishaps to the awkwardness of post-natal sex at the parents’ house.
Jefferson captures the joy of the growing relationship between parent and child as Emily grows to love her daughter Lucy. But for me my favourite parts of the book are the moments of connection with other women as Emily tentatively makes new friends. There is a scene where she is struggling to breastfeed in public and another mum shares some advice on her nipples(!) that helps enormously. That is what is so brilliant about this book, it is a celebration of mothers. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and for me what helps during those tricky first few weeks is reaching out to other mothers whether in person at a Bump & Baby Club meetup or on a late-night WhatsApp with a friend or even reading about a character going through the same experience in a book. Sometimes all you need when it is tough is to hear that someone else has shared your experience and got through it.
Without spoiling the end, Emily has her own chance to help a new mother in need as she reaches the end of her first year with a baby. This moment inspired me to reach out to another mum on my first trip into Central London with the baby. Terrified of Rose falling head first out of her sling as she made several breaks for freedom, I enviously eyed a local mum who sat next to me on the bus blissfully carrying her calm newborn. I decided to reach out to her for advice, telling her how nervous I was about travelling alone. As well as sharing details of a local sling library that helped adjust her baby carrier, she told me about her first trip with her own daughter and how helpful people had been. As I got off the bus she told me “you can do this!” and I instantly felt like I could. Reading You Can Take Me Home Now will make you feel less alone in the small hours, and who knows, might make you a little braver in real life too.
You Can Take Her Home Now by Anna Jefferson is out now in ebook and audio book and due to be published in paperback in early 2020.
Check out my interview with Anna, where she chats about some of the themes within her novel.
Three other great reads:
– The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
A modern love story about flatmates, book editor Tiffy and care nurse Leon, who share a bed but have never met. Perfect for fans of the novel, One Day.
– Sleep by CJ Taylor
A claustrophobic thriller about a woman haunted by insomnia and who fears a mysterious stalker has tracked her down on a remote Scottish island.
– Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
If you loved Fleabag you’ll fall head over heels for Candice’s clever and funny debut starring 25-year-old Queenie.