The Switch by Beth O’Leary
Published: April 2020
Genre: women’s fiction
Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.
But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?
Leena is super stressed at work, and her grandmother Eileen wants to expand her dating horizons, so they decide to spend the summer at the other’s home—sometimes all you need is a little change of scenery. Hilarity, enlightenment, community, and heartwarming experiences ensue!
This is the perfect little pick-me-up and cheerful read. I loved Eileen’s gumption and view on life—her no-nonsense personality and “see it, fix it” helpful attitude, her sense of community spirit—and she totally reminded me of my own Nana. Eileen is the kind of person I strive to be, to find or have the answers while helping others while maintaining healthy boundaries and a balanced sense of self. Leena, on the other hand, was achingly familiar to me. I related a little too intensely to her desire for perfection, her need to please, her hamster-wheeling brain. There were whole scenes in the book that had me wondering if O’Leary had a little camera on the wall of my office. But Leena, too, found her zen in her summer and it served as a reminder to me to take a step back and breathe once in a while! You can’t give your all when you’re out of gas.
While Flatshare highlighted gaslighting, unhealthy romantic relationships, and finding ways to come out of abuse in a healthy, positive way, The Switch focused on self improvement, self care, and familial grief. Leena and her mother experienced Leena’s sister’s death in two drastically different ways, and Eileen was left to referee her daughter and granddaughter’s emotional well-beings. Part of Eileen’s tendency to keep the peace in all aspects of her life brought on heavy burdens she didn’t need to take on. Part of Leena’s tendency to grind and overwork was to stave off unwanted memories and unacknowledged grief, all of which she needed to experience in order to reunite with her mother and move forward in life.
What I love the most about O’Leary’s books is the way she handles universal, deep, and modern female experiences––all of them heavy, many of them uphill battles as a modern woman––and wraps them with humor and compassion. I know now when I dive into her novels I’m going to be dealing with some dark stuff, but I’ll still smile and laugh throughout the journey. All in all, she’s an “up-lit” author!
If you enjoyed the humor and familiarity and female experiences of The Flatshare, you’ll enjoy this book. If you’re looking for predominantly romance, this isn’t quite it—though there, it’s not the point at all. This is uplifting fiction, discussing grief, community, mental health, aging, and never giving up.