Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Arms Wide Open by Tom Winter

Paperback: 330 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Corsair 2014
Source: Supplied to me by Lovereading as a member of the Reader Reviewed Books Panel.
First Sentences: It's a Thursday afternoon and Meredith is staring at a pot of yogurt. 
Favourite Quote: 'Become all touchy-feely?' To flounce through life with my arms wide open?'
Review Quote: Tom Winter delights with a deadpan turn of phrase (Daily Mail).
My Opinion: Extremely poignant read.

I had never come across Tom Winter before being offered this title to review by a readers panel that I am on. In fact I doubt I would have chosen to read this book myself so I am grateful I was given this opportunity because it is an extremely poignant read. Dementia is at the heart of this novel and it is dealt with through humour as well as sensitivity. Written in language that is clear, succinct and so expressive that even though it is a traumatic subject the author is writing about he manages to lighten the story in a humorous way. In fact this heart moving novel impacted on me so much that when shortly after finishing the novel I came across an initiative called 'Dementia Friends' I was inspired to find out more.

The protagonists of the story are forty three year old non identical twins Jack and Meredith, whose worlds are currently crumbling around them. Meredith is not coping at all well with the break up of her marriage leaving her to deal alone with teenage offspring. The children Jemima and Luke also have problems undoubtedly not helped by the fact that their father has gone off with another woman. Jemima is playing a dangerous game on-line and her brother is being bullied at school. Unfortunately Meredith is too traumatised by her failed marriage to cope with much else apart from diligently visiting her own mother in a local nursing home and her father's grave.

It is her twin Jack that shakes up life for them all somewhat when he suddenly starts to spend more time with his sister, niece and nephew when his own high flying life style starts to crumble around him. Seeking solace from each other the trauma in their lives seems to escalate as they not only discover by chance that the father they thought was dead may not be so. However with their mother sinking daily into the ever deeper depths of Dementia they do not stand much chance of finding out the truth from her. 
Narrated in the present day interspersed with flashbacks from five to forty-five years the reader gradually gets a fuller picture of the twins life as they grew up. As truths are revealed the twins discover that life is not always as simple as one thinks. 

Exactly what these revelations are you will have to read for yourself to find out. I can not think of anyone I would not recommend this to, certainly a good choice for book clubs as so much to discuss.

Author Profile

Tom Winter is a British writer living in Berlin. His début novel, Lost & Found, was published in five languages. In August 2013 it was chosen as the Book of the Month by the Mail on Sunday's You Magazine book club. That summer, the Kindle edition was also a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon UK.
Tom's second book, Arms Wide Open, will be published on 17 April 2014. He is currently working on his third novel, Days of Wonder, which will be published in August 2015.
He lives alone, with a potted plant and an assortment of noisy neighbours.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and his writing.


  1. Very nice review. Thank you for sharing your opinion.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, great to see you here.

  2. Really like the sound of this one Lindy and I haven't heard of it before, need to keep an eye out for it or maybe even wishlist it after reading your review, thank you.


  3. Lainy, I am delighted that my review has encouraged you to want to read this and I shall look forward to reading your own thoughts.

  4. Hi Linda,

    It was great to hear from you after all this time and to know that you are working at piecing things back together again. Joining Goodreads has been one of the best things I could have done, as I have linked up with so many existing and new blogging friends, that my free time is now pretty much all taken up socialising with everyone!

    Like youself, I am not sure that this is a book I would choose to read, especially as my own father-in-law is showing symptoms of early stage dementia, so the emotional day to day stuff in the story, may be just a little too close to home right now.

    It does however, sound as though the subject has been dealt with sympathetically by the author, more than ably supported by your very even handed review. Perhaps in time, I may add this one to my reading list ...

    As a random thought, I was totally intrigued by the photo of the book's author, as he so reminded me of someone. I have been racking my brains and scouring Google for inspiration and finally found my look alike Tom Winter .... Does he not bear more than a passing resemblance to Martin Kemp, of Spandau Ballet fame, or is it just me? That is of course before Martin decided on the new 'Silver Fox' image, which I love!


    1. Yvonne, although this may be painful to read I still recommend you do so as you will not be disappointed, dementia is dealt with so sensitively, it may even help you. As for the lookalike, oh yes I can see the resemblance! I am delighted you have joined Goodreads and look forward to interaction with you there.


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