Each Way Bet, by Ilsa Evans

‘And d’you know, I’ve been wandering around today thinking how lucky you are? House in the suburbs, lots of company, full life – I mean, you’re really important to people. See, you might think what I do sounds pretty romantic but, you know, no-one really needs me. Not like they need you.’
‘But that’s just it,’ Jill wailed miserably. ‘That’s exactly it! I don’t want to be needed anymore. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be needed like that for nearly twenty years? I’ve had enough! I just want to be me – no-one’s wife, or mother, or anything. Just. Me.’

When Emily Broadhurst returns home to yet another night alone in her singles pad, she is surprised to receive a phone call from her older sister, Jill. Jill is the mother of four, and the hostess of tomorrow’s family Melbourne Cup lunch. But Jill doesn’t want the responsibility of lunch – or of anything else. She’s exhausted and wants out. It is Emily’s idea that they trade places – Jill to spend the night in Emily’s flat, and Emily to organise and run the annual family lunch. Surely it can’t be that hard?

Soon, though, Jill finds there are complications she didn’t expect from sleeping in Emily’s bed, and Emily wonders how one is supposed to clean house, serve lunch, and keep three teenagers and a foul-mouthed toddler under control.

Each Way Bet is a warm, funny novel about family dynamics, and the grass-is-greener syndrome. As with Evans’ other books, she manages to focus on the events of just a few days, so that the reader shares a sense of immediacy in the unfolding events. No event, right down to wiping a bench or washing a dish, is considered too mundane to include – and with Evans’ wit, none of these small events are mundane. Evans captures the dynamics of a family gathering, complete with dramas of an unhappy wife, a possible pregnancy, pesky in-laws, and more with humour, keeping you laughing till the end, while still empathising with the characters and their emotions.

Lots of fun.

Each Way bet, by Ilsa Evans
Macmillan, 2006