Glamorous lone parent, Stella wants nothing more than to impress her teenage daughter. She has spent her life shielding Tara from her religious upbringing and has never told Tara about her father. But when they move back to Belfast, hiding the past becomes tricky.
Stella lands her dream job as fashion editor at a teen magazine and Tara thinks she will die of shame. Later, Tara starts a blog to pour out her teenage angst and begins working at a home for rescued animals run by the reclusive, enigmatic Nora.
When Tara’s blog takes off, a rival magazine offers to publish it as a column, putting her in a difficult situation.
Will Tara risk hurting her mother in order to achieve her dream of being a writer? Can three generations of one family, who struggle to understand each other, ever develop real bonds?
When I first cracked open My Virtual Life by Sharon Dempsey, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. Little did I realize that I would come to really love Stella and Tara’s story. The story is filled with raw emotions, growing up, living with a mother going through her own “teenage” years and a fourteen year old daughter who seems to be the grounded one out of the two.
Stella is a fashion writer for a teen magazine and works long hours, often leaving her daughter, Tara at home with Au Pair. Stella doesn’t completely understand her daughter and it seems as if her career takes front and center stage. Stella is trendy and keeps up with all the new fashion whereas Tara is the complete opposite.
I really tried to like Stella in the beginning, but she often did not come across as the motherly type. Of course, she loves her daughter, Tara, but I don’t think she completely understands her and often times tries to change her. Stella is a writer for a teen magazine after all and what would people think of her parenting when her daughter Tara is happy enough to wear clothes from two seasons ago. Stella seems to want to change Tara and often tries to do motherly things like take Tara shopping for new clothes much to tara’s dismay.
Tara seems more like the adult and she often wonders what it would be like if she had a “normal” mother. One who cooks and cleans and is home more often than not. Tara often daydreams about mothers on TV wishing her mom could be the same. Needing an outlet to express her thoughts, Tara turns to blogging as she can sort of hide herself behind her words as she does not feel comfortable broadcasting herself via vlogging. Tara is sort of a loner with barely any friends except for Matt. When Tara blogs, it is an outlet for her to express her feelings about her life, friends and mother. When her blog finally gets noticed by a competing teen magazine, Tara needs to decide if she wants her blog to go viral especially since its in complete contrast to what her mother does for a living.
I have nothing but good things to say about My Virtual Life. The story is beautifully written and shows the dynamics of a mother/daughter relationship through its ups and downs. I felt myself really connecting with the story and hoping Stella and Tara could ever find an even ground where they can finally accept each other for who they both were. I really feel like both Stella and Tara really grow as individuals as well as a mother and daughter team. There are a few side plots that really enhance the story. My heart completely melted watching Tara interact with shelter pets as shelters are near and dear to my own heart and I often volunteer at a shelter helping cats become more social. I am a huge animal advocate and I am so glad it was portrayed with such honesty in this story.
My Virtual Life is a charming and touching story told with a sharp insight into the inner workings of a single mom trying to raise her teen daughter the best way she knows how. The story is heartfelt and lends a touch of realism between its pages. This book could not have been any more perfect. If you are a fan of beautifully drawn stories then you definitely need to pick this one up.
About Sharon Dempsey:
My Virtual Life is Sharon Dempsey’s second contemporary women’s fiction novel. Sharon is a Belfast-based writer of three fiction titles with four non-fiction health books published. Her crime debut Little Bird was released in July 2017 with Bloodhound Books. A Posy of Promises is the first in a trilogy and published by Bombshell Books.
She facilitates therapeutic creative writing classes for people affected by cancer and other health challenges, and runs a creative writing group for young people, called Young Scribblers, at the Crescent Arts Centre. She is a creative writing tutor at Queen’s University and Stranmillis College. Sharon studied Politics and English at Queen’s University and undertook a newspaper journalism post grad at City University, London. She has written for a variety of publications and newspapers, including the Irish Times. She regularly reviews books for BBC Radio Ulster. Sharon is working on the follow up to Little Bird and a collection of dark short stories.
Sharon’s Social Media Links:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/svjdempz @svjdempz