When there is more than you think: Dawn explains

More Than Us Book Cover More Than Us
Dawn Barker
Women’s Fiction, Family Drama
Canelo
21st May 2018
Kindle

When parents disagree on how to care for their child, is it justifiable to take extreme measures?

Emily and Paul have a glorious home, money in the bank and two beautiful children. Since leaving Scotland for Paul to play football for an Australian team they have been blessed. But sadness lies behind the picture-perfect family - sixteen-year-old Cameron has battled with health troubles his entire life. There's no name for what he has, but his disruptive behaviour, OCD and difficulty in social situations is a constant source of worry.

When Paul's career comes to a shuddering halt, he descends into a spiral of addiction, gambling away the family's future. By the time he seeks help, it's his new boss Damien who recommends and pays for a rehab facility.

While Paul is away, Emily has to make a tough decision about their son. She keeps it from Paul knowing he'll disapprove. And when a terrible accident reveals the truth, Paul takes his son and goes on the run, leaving Emily to care for fourteen-year-old Tilly, who unbeknown to her parents is fighting battles of her own.

Can the family join together for the sake of their loved ones, or will their troubles tear them apart?

 

Dawn Barker explains Autisim and the book

First of all, thank you for having me on your blog today. I’m very excited that More Than Us is out now!

Thank you also for asking me to explain a little bit about some of the mental health conditions that are central to the characters in More Than Us. For those who haven’t read it yet, More Than Us tells the story of a family who must make drastic decisions about the mental health treatment of their son, and then deal with the fall-out for their family, and particularly their children, when the parents have completely opposing views about his psychiatry treatment.

One of the main characters in More Than Us is a teenage boy named Cameron. Cameron has always been different to his sister, and different to the other children around him. He was harder to manage as a baby and toddler, with behavioural issues and struggles at school. His mother is sure there’s something wrong with him; his father thinks he’s just a child and shouldn’t have to be the same as everyone else.

I chose to write about this issue in the book as when I’m not writing, I work as a child psychiatrist here in Perth, Australia. I therefore see every day that diagnosing behavioural and emotional difficulties in children is not as straightforward as diagnosing a medical illness: there’s no blood test or scan that can tell us what’s ‘wrong’ and we depend on information and observation from many places to help formulate a diagnosis and tailor treatment, both psychological and sometimes, medication, if appropriate. Also, children are developing and changing all the time, and so are their symptoms.

In More Than Us, Cameron doesn’t fit neatly into any box. He has features of an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and he also has features of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Over many years, other symptoms appear that seem to relate to ADHD, or anxiety, or depression. This again, is not uncommon in my day to day work.

In child psychiatry, symptoms often overlap. For example, an Autistic Spectrum Disorder involves symptoms of not only social difficulties, but also restricted and repetitive interests and behaviours. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder involves, amongst other symptoms, repetitive compulsive behaviours that may appear to parents, or teachers, as restricted behaviours. The two conditions, however, are very different, as is their treatment. To complicate things, children may have both conditions, and in fact many mental illnesses commonly co-occur with others.

I see children with social difficulties all the time in my practice, and Cameron in More Than Us struggles to relate to his peers at times. It had been suggested when he was younger that he may have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, which, by definition, involves difficulty in social communication. However, he doesn’t quite fit in that box.

Other mental health disorders can create social difficulties too: someone with OCD may be so preoccupied with their worrying, obsessional thoughts and completing their compulsions that they can’t concentrate on social interactions; someone with ADHD may struggle to control their impulses or their attention on conversations; someone who is depressed will be so flat in their mood that they don’t have the energy or motivation to relate to others.

I wanted to explore in the book how all of our behaviours exist on a spectrum, from what we would class in our society as ‘normal’, social and confident children, to those people whom we see at work or school every day who don’t fit the norm. They may be ‘quirky’ or a little odd, or avoid social interactions, or just seem to not understand social communication. That’s not necessarily an illness or mental health condition and diagnosis depends on a really careful and thorough history and observation of a child and family over time. Not every child who has social difficulties has an autistic spectrum disorder, and diagnosing children is complex.

I hope that readers of More Than Us can put themselves in the place of Cameron’s mother and father, and consider what they would do in that situation, if Cameron was their child. After writing the book, it has become even clearer to me that there is no right or wrong answer, and no right or wrong way to raise your own child, but even if parents disagree about treatment, or any aspect of parenting, they mustn’t forget that the most important thing is to ensure that their child is happy and thriving, regardless of their own views.

Thanks again for having me on your blog today and I hope your readers enjoy More Than Us.

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Author Bio:

Dawn Barker is a psychiatrist and author. She grew up in Scotland, then in 2001 she moved to Australia, completed her psychiatric training and began writing. Her first novel, ‘Fractured’, was selected for the 2010 Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre manuscript development programme, was one of Australia’s bestselling debut fiction titles for 2013, and was shortlisted for the 2014 WA Premier’s Book Awards. Her second novel is ‘Let Her Go’. Dawn lives in Perth with her husband and three young children.

Twitter: @drdawnbarker

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Way to spend the ‘Festive’ Season

Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe Book Cover Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe
Comfort Food Cafe
Debbie Johnson
Christmas stories
HarperImpulse
October 20, 2016
208

Becca Fletcher has always hated Christmas, but she has her reasons for being Little Miss Grinch. Now, though, she can't avoid her version of ho-ho-hell because she's traveling to the Comfort Food Café to spend the festive season with her sister Laura and her family. She's expecting mulled win, 24-hour Christmas movie marathons and all kinds of very merry torture. Little does Becca know that the Comfort Food Café is like no other place on earth. Perched on a snow-covered hill, it's a place full of friendship where broken hearts can heal, and where new love can blossom. It's where Becca's Christmas miracle really could happen--if only she can let it ..."--

This is the 3rd  book in the Comfort Cafe series that I have read and still found it enjoyable in its genre.

Becca, the Xmas Grinch, just has to change her attitude when she comes to stay with her sister at Xmas. Especially when she finds out just how irresistible Surfer Sam the Coastguard and Shore Ranger really is..

So the cafe and its inhabitants of the mythical Budbury cast a spell again and change a life for the better and we all feel hugged again in Cherie’s vast bosom and happily drinking Laura’s Hot Chocolate….

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Let’s go and garden!

Digging in
Loretta Nyhan
Fiction, humour, literary fiction
Lake Union Publishing
2018-04
252

In author Loretta Nyhan's warm, witty, and wonderful novel, a widow discovers an unexpected chance to start over--right in her own backyard. Paige Moresco found her true love in eighth grade--and lost him two years ago. Since his death, she's been sleepwalking through life, barely holding on for the sake of her teenage son. Her house is a wreck, the grass is overrun with weeds, and she's at risk of losing her job. As Paige stares at her neglected lawn, she knows she's hit rock bottom. So she does something entirely unexpected: she begins to dig. As the hole gets bigger, Paige decides to turn her entire yard into a vegetable garden. The neighbors in her tidy gated community are more than a little alarmed. Paige knows nothing about gardening, and she's boldly flouting neighborhood-association bylaws. But with the help of new friends, a charming local cop, and the transformative power of the soil, Paige starts to see potential in the chaos of her life. Something big is beginning to take root--both in her garden and in herself.

I actually think that Petra Polly might have a good book in there…  so a book within a book. Petra certainly makes some good and valid points from my own experience of organisations, especially about sharing knowledge. But I don’t like the idea of competing for your job! The loser gets sacked.

So an interesting story about the older women at work and how their knowledge and experience works with creativity and enthusiasm as displayed by the ‘youngsters’.

And how digging in a garden is good for your health and growing your own food expands your emotions.

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Sunshine and the Summer is here?

Sunshine at the Comfort Food Café Book Cover Sunshine at the Comfort Food Café
Comfort Food Cafe #2
Debbie Johnson
Women’s Fiction, humour, contemporary
HarperImpulse
March 8, 2018
400

Return to the Comfort Food Cafe this spring for sunshine, smiles and plenty of truly scrumptious lemon drizzle cake. Perched on a windswept cliff on the stunning Dorset coast at what feels like the edge of the world, the cafe and its warm-hearted community are a haven for lost souls who happen to wander by with a heavy heart and a story to tell. Serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes, there's nothing a cup of tea and a delicious treat won't fix. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security - a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu. So make yourself at home, catch up on the gossip with old friends, meet new ones and fall in love at the Comfort Food Cafe.

Here we journey into the world of Willow and learn why her hair is dyed pink, and why she keeps a journal.

This is a poignant story, sympathetically written with an empathetic look at how life is with someone with Alzheimer’s or indeed any form of dementia.

Willow is the owner of the most desirable dog in the village – at least according to all other dogs – and lives in a cottage on Frank’s farm with her mother.

Her 3 older siblings are scattered but she stayed home and now finds she can’t really leave her delightful, free-spirited mother due to her dementia. And so we learn about the constraints and emotional heartache that come with such circumstances.

 

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Make India your Home?

Coming Home Book Cover Coming Home
Fern Britton
Womens' Literature, Romance , Women's Fiction, Humour
HarperCollins
February 19, 2018
400

*Preorder the gorgeous new novel from the Sunday Times best-selling author and TV presenter, Fern Britton.* When the only place you want to be is home... When Ella's beloved grandmother dies, she comes back to the beautiful Cornish coast to heal her heart. There she finds her home again and discovers a new life, and new love ... But she also opens a treasure trove of secrets. Sennen left Cornwall a young single mum but unable to cope. She left her children, her family and part of her. She's spent the years hiding from her past, hiding from herself. Now it's time to come back. To Cornwall. To face her mistakes. To pray for forgiveness. To hope for a future with her daughter.

I did find this a somewhat sentimental book but was warned before I started by the blurb and for some it will bring on tears.
I did like it though and enjoyed the read but did wonder if Fern had been to India as I have, as saying tuk-tuk rides were expensive is absolutely not true – they are very cheap indeed and can be made even cheaper by sharing and cramming in more people than you could ever imagine!
Certainly, the markets are very cheap but also very unhygienic – vegetables probably would be OK to eat but don’t touch the meat or fish!

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