This Could Be Us – Claire McGowan

Published By: Corsair
Pages: 336
Released On: 01/06/2023

Kate has done the unthinkable. She’d worked hard to build a perfect life for herself, while ignoring her growing unhappiness. But when her second child was born profoundly disabled, reality hit. Unable to cope, Kate left – disappearing without a trace. She ends up in LA, with a glittering career and a new family of sorts, but the guilt is still suffocating.

Husband Andrew was left to pick up the pieces and care for their disabled daughter and angry, confused son. Bereft and broken, he leaned on Olivia, Kate’s best friend. She’s been by his side ever since, ignoring her own needs to meet his.

Years later, Andrew has written a memoir about his daughter learning to communicate against all odds. But when Kate’s new producer husband decides he wants to make a film of it, their worlds collide once again. Now, Kate must return to the life she abandoned and reckon with what she did. The guilt and the love. The pain and the hope. In other words, family.


Thanks to NetGalley and Corsair for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

My mum taught children with physical, mental and learning disabilities for nearly twenty years, and so I was bought up with children that could be seen as ‘different’ and so disability was never a big thing for me, whereas I am aware it might still be a shock to some. And its true that raising a severely disabled child is difficult, physically and emotionally. It affects every part of your life. Which is why I understand why Kate does what she does in this book. I’m not saying I agree with her walking out on her family, but I wouldn’t judge as I understand what it’s like to be pushed to, and over, your limits.

Having said that, I didn’t like Kate that much as a character. I didn’t judge her decision, no, but I felt she was a bit whiney at times, playing the victim too much. The character of Olivia I went to and fro with, but overall I liked her. She puts her own life on hold to keep Kate’s afloat. I liked Andrew the most. He got the ‘bum deal’ so to speak and it was hard for him, but I definitely felt more compassion for him.

There is so much honesty there that you can tell Claire has life experience with disability. It shows disability – and parenthood on the whole – to be difficult, ugly, complicated, exhausting. Parents of non-disabled children struggle, let alone those with severely disabled children. It also shows that compassion runs out. Be it for your kin, your friends, your family, and yourself. It’s important to remember that you’re still human. People often say that you only get what you can cope with. But what happens if you can’t cope? There’s no shame in admitting that you can’t cope. Okay, so Kate did it in an extreme way, but the bottom line is, you’re no weaker if you admit you need help

I liked how the story was played through various viewpoints across several years. Kate leaving the family didn’t just affect her: it affected her son Adam (brilliant character creation), her daughter Kirsty, who whilst at first may not understand what’s happening, the sudden lack of a parent will obviously affect her, and her friend Olivia, who at times feels a bit of a martyr but equally a bit like a superhero. And by following them through the years, we see how that abandonment has affected them, and still affects them, and their decisions, 15 years later.

I felt the depictions of Kirsty and her disability were good. It could have gone a bit over-the-top, a bit like a caricature of what we think a disabled person looks and acts like. But it felt very real. Maybe because I’ve grown up around children with disabilities, but that felt spot on for me.

It is a very honest book. A lot of the time we tend to sugar-coat the hardships that come with disability by saying things like, “but I still love her”, “she’s still my daughter”, “people have it worse” etc. And whilst that may be true, it doesn’t negate the difficulties. Anyone with experience will know it’s not always easy, and it’s messy, and this shows all of that in an unapologetic, raw, honest which which I applaud. I don’t think I’ve read that in fiction before.

It really makes you think…if you knew your chid was going to be this affected, would you continue with the pregnancy? Would you still love a child that takes up so much of your life? Could you love them as much as your other children? They’re not easy questions to think about, but I think they’re going to be amongst the many asked at book clubs, where this book will definitely be a top choice.

There were a few bits I would have liked explored a bit more, or to be developed a bit more, such as the Adam/Delia and Olivia/Delia storylines, as well as the confrontation between Kate and her family, but they weren’t major things, and overall I thought it was very well written and a good story.

It’s thought-provoking, heart-warming, heart wrenching, uplifting, and emotional. A rollercoaster full of emotions that may even see you shed a tear or two.

This was my first Claire McGowan book, but definitely not my last. If she writes with this much heart in her other books then they’re definitely worth a read.

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