The book takes us to the present time.
Vivienne and Ellen are still as good friends as ever. Vivienne is now living alone in the house that used to belong to her late parents. She has two grown-up children, Emma and Aaron. In matters of the heart she hasn’t been very lucky. The man who she married, Ray, turned out to be a mistake. She was very much in love, but not long after she had her children, he didn’t show her the love and affection he had sworn she would have from him forever. Besides, he was always involved in illegal dealings. Then one day he said that he was going for Chinese food and never returned, and Vivienne learnt that she had eloped with someone called Suzanne. So Vivienne moved back with her parents where she raised her children, looked after her parents, and now that her parents are dead and her children gone from home, she is alone at home with just her dog Bob.
Ellen is also married, and I really love her personality. She is direct, sarcastic, and rambunctious. She married Trev, who was Ray’s best friend, but unlike Ray, he stayed faithful to Ellen. They have a child, Robbie, who has had an adventurous love life. In a few years he has married twice, so now he has an ex-wife, a new wife, and two babies to support.
The important moment in the novel is when Vivienne gets a letter from her daughter Emma, who lives in New Zealand. It is a wedding invitation for her wedding to someone called Michael, and this is the first thing Vivienne hears about the man. Emma has always been a free spirit, and has had a string of boyfriends who weren’t the settle-down type. Before travelling to New Zealand, she was engaged to someone called Trevor, but she finally ditched him because she wanted to see the world. Now she is ready to settle down. I find the way Emma has announced her wedding to her mother a bit too impersonal. Getting an invitation as if you were a stranger! I really don’t think Emma was right in her choice to tell her mother about her wedding in that way. She should have called her as soon as she was engaged. Now Vivienne is heart-broken because she knows that Emma won’t be coming home as she hoped she would do some day. When they talk, Emma tells her that her boyfriend is a doctor and she is very much in love.
Ellen is the first person Vivienne tells about the wedding, and it is Ellen, who takes control and plans their travelling arrangements. It is quite funny to see the interaction between Ellen and Vivienne. I think this trip is what Vivienne needs because it is clear that despite having Ellen’s friendship she is quite lonely. I have the suspicion she is going to meet the man who Ellen told her once would sweep her off her feet. Maybe she will stay in New Zealand as well, which I have mixed feelings about, because that would mean breaking that relationship she has had with Ellen for many decades.
Apart from this, there is also Vivienne’s son, Aaron. He is married to Lizzie, who seems to be quite shallow, catty in her comments, and pretentious. It is clear that Aaron has noticed his wife’s behaviour with her mother and her sister. She was quite nasty when Emma announced four years before that she was travelling to New Zealand. One evening Aaron comes unannounced, and he tells his mother about his worried about his wife. He admits to being very happy at times, but Lizzie is high-maintenance. He wants Vivienne to know that Lizzie is not bad, just vulnerable because she has never felt appreciated by her own parents, and that is why she is often catty and tries to show her worth through a display of luxury at home. The conversation between Vivienne and her son is quite moving, and Vivienne is quite wise to tell him that he shouldn’t let his love blind him and he must protect his space, because he shouldn’t lose himself into Lizzie’s overwhelming world. She reckons that if she had done so with her ex-husband, she wouldn’t have been so wretched when he left her.
I am really enjoying the novel. I can’t wait to see what expects Vivienne and Ellen in Hong Kong and New Zealand.