I always have my head in one book or another, but like all readers, every so often, a book or series comes along that really speaks to me and becomes part of the fabric of my life. And the recently completed 2-part Life is Good series by Sophia Soames and Magdalena di Sotru is one of those rare and special reads.
I’ve waxed lyrical on this blog about the first instalment, Life is Good and Other Lies which was released in October but just to recap, the story is about two couples, Thomas and Frank and Bruno and Gabriel, who together with their families are staying at a remote Swedish farmhouse. After the initial awkwardness of the proximity of strangers and the vocal boredom of teenage children, the two families gradually become friends, uniting into one informal extended family group.
The blurb emphasised that ‘this is not a romance’, but what made it such a special read for me was that it’s a painfully truthful observation of what happens down the line years after the initial heady romance when life, health, children, work and financial worries get in the way of a loving relationship as our couples struggle to reconnect with their partners over the course of the summer. The youngsters from both families also bond, especially teenagers Fredrik and Andreas as they shyly navigate the throes of first love.
As you can imagine, after devouring the first story, I was eager to grab a copy of the newly released, Life is Right Here, which takes place ten years after the first book. The families are as close as ever and the children are all grown up as Bruno and Frank and their brood travel to Oslo to spend Christmas with Thomas and Frank.
With all the realism and humour of the first book, there’s so much to enjoy in this second story. The messy business of fitting 9 adults into a modest house over the festive season without any fallout, the mass shopping and frenetic cooking, all those seemingly pointless annual family traditions and games, and the younger members of the family waltzing in noisily at 4 am after a night of clubbing is so relatable and real.
But along with the light observations, there are poignant threads that give the story so much depth together with Fredrik and Andreas, now in their mid-twenties, picking up the pieces of their long-abandoned romantic relationship.
This story fearlessly embraces every aspect of love, both familial and romantic, whether new and uncertain and passionate or established over decades and tinged with the heartbreaking fear of loss. Narrations from all the members of this solid, messy, loving extended family state the life-affirming message to live and love right now and seize the moment.
Talking of seizing the moment, I would encourage any readers who like the sound of this to grab a copy of this outstanding series right now. I can’t guarantee that you won’t end up in floods of happy tears like I did but you will enjoy the journey with these two wonderful authors and their marvellously real characters to prove that despite the odds, Life is Good.