The psych said that CJ didn’t want to open up to me about everything that was going on with her. She felt like she had to protect me from it. I always thought I was the kind of mum she could turn to, but I’m not. I keep thinking, if only I was different, if I was a better mum, then she’d be fine right now.

From Love and Other Battles by Tess Woods

One of the things I enjoy about Tess Woods’s novels is the way she sensitively handles difficult contemporary societal issues. 

The three generations of women in Love and Other Battles all have their own challenges to overcome. But as a reader and writer of young-adult fiction, I was interested to see how Woods would tackle the teen issues of self-harm, cyber-safety, drug use, and youth suicide.

The teen in the book is CJ, the youngest of the three women in the story — CJ is Jamie’s daughter and Jess’s granddaughter. She’s grown up without knowing who her dad is and despite this, she has a great relationship with her mum. But when CJ brings home the coolest boy at school, she’s headed into unchartered waters and a massive disaster. 

Woods’s description of CJ’s life and how she feels facing her challenges reads real. There is honesty here, which is what Woods does so well. What I really admire about this book is that Woods tackles current issues with both sensitivity and empathy. You get the feeling that she understands and is empathetic to the challenges facing families today. Her book may even encourage mothers of teens to have that extra chat. 

There is a lot more to Love and Other Battles than teen issues. Woods also tackles ageing parents and touches on issues that many middle-aged readers may be grappling with with their own parents. And there are three intertwined entertaining stories in their own right.

Despite the heavy content, Love and Other Battles is an easy and compelling read with a lovely plot twist at the end. This is one to pack in your suitcase. 

About the Book 

Three generations of women. Three heartbreaking choices. One unforgettable story.

1969: Free-spirited hippie Jess James has no intention of falling for a soldier … but perhaps some things are not in our power to stop.

1989: Jess’s daughter, Jamie, dreams of a simple life – marriage, children, stability – then she meets a struggling musician and suddenly the future becomes wilder and complex.

2017: When Jamie’s daughter, CJ, brings home trouble in the form of the coolest boy at school, the worlds of these three women turn upside down … and the past returns to haunt them. 

Spanning the trauma of the Vietnam War to the bright lights of Nashville, the epidemic of teenage self-harm to the tragedy of incurable illness, Love and Other Battles is the heart-wrenching story of three generations of Australian women, who learn that true love is not always where you seek it.

Many thanks to Harper Collins for a copy of this book to review.