Cat Step by Alison Irvine

Gripping and poignant, Alison Irvine's Cat Step is a refreshing representation of the complexities of motherhood

Book Review by Sim Bajwa | 05 Nov 2020
  • Cat Step by Alison Irvine
Book title: Cat Step
Author: Alison Irvine

When Liz, the mother of four year old Emily, leaves her sleeping daughter in the car while popping into a Co-op, she doesn't expect to return to find strangers waiting for her, full of questions and scathing judgement. In the minutes she was gone, she stopped being Liz – new arrival in a small Scottish town at the foot of the Campsie Fells – and became the mother who abandoned her daughter in the car, the mother who was lazy and careless, the mother who needs social workers and neighbours to keep an eye on her. Her split-second decision, one borne from reluctance to disturb her unwell daughter, unravels Liz and Emily's attempts to start their lives afresh.

Cat Step asks us whether the societal expectation of mothers to be perfect caregivers is fair, and demonstrates the harm caused by harsh judgements we impose when women don't meet this impossible standard. In a welcome and refreshing representation of the complexities of motherhood, it demands we not look away from Liz's brittleness, the rage that sends her spiralling, and the grief that haunts her, however uncomfortable it makes us and the people around her.

Irvine also delves into the importance of community and friendship, along with the significance of being part of something where kindness is offered unconditionally. Skilfully constructed, Cat Step is gripping, poignant, and at times an absolute gut punch.

Dead Ink, out now, £9.99