Author Cassie Hamer’s debut novel After the Party (Harlequin Books 2019) is a light-hearted and heart-warming story about parenting, marriage and family. The book opens with Sydney mum Lisa Wheeldon in the midst of the chaos that is a child’s fifth birthday party. Like Liane Moriarty, Hamer touches on the nerves of all readers who are parents or carers as she dissects the judgmental expectations, the sugar highs, the cake disasters, the parents who’ve had one too many wines, and the pinata problems. But just when it seems she has survived the party, she realises she has an extra child in her home – a little girl, Ellie, who wasn’t even invited, and who seems to have been abandoned by her mother. The book takes a dark turn and delves into some more serious issues. But despite the weighty mystery at its centre, the story remains entertaining and amusing as Lisa and her friends and family struggle to decide what to do about Ellie. What is the right thing to do versus what do they want to do? Should they involve the police? What about Ellie’s rights? And what if Ellie’s mother’s motivations are more complicated than they at first appear? This is a great book club book that will ignite discussions about foster care, parental rights and responsibilities, domestic violence, societal norms and expectations and the sacrifices we are prepared to make, both for our own children and for the children of others (that whole ‘it takes a village’ philosophy).
Funny writing is very hard to do well and it is difficult to produce a book that is humorous precisely because it is so familiar and recognisable, and because you can so easily see yourself in the same situation as the characters. But this book is very funny and very relatable. There are some great relationships between parents and children, and between adults, that navigate the ups and downs of connection, and there’s a madcap and over-the-top ending that really raises the stakes. If you are a parent or an aunt or uncle, I guarantee you will recognise your child, your neighbour, your partner or yourself in this story. I can see it being passed from sister to sister, or from girlfriend to girlfriend, with a knowing look, an exasperated sigh and a genuine giggle.