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Review: The Cactus

The Cactus

Title: The Cactus
Author: Sarah Haywood
Genre: Adult Contemporary, Fiction, Family Drama
Page Count: 368
Published by: Park Row Books
Date Published: May 29, 2018
You can find a copy here: Bookshop.org


Susan Green has a very careful, perfectly laid out life. Just the way she likes it, with no emotional entanglements, nonsense, or confusion. But when the relationship from her “interpersonal arrangement” results in an unexpected pregnancy and her ill mother passes away … messy emotions and unplanned chaos begin cracking her carefully structured world.

Embroiled in a legal battle with her estranged brother over their mother’s will and her due date quickly approaching, Susan finds she needs more help than she realized, and that the road to motherhood is anything but straightforward. Gradually starting to lean on her next door neighbour & fellow single mother Kate and Rob, the slightly gullible but well meaning friend of her brother, Susan slowly learns to lower her guard, love herself, and let go.


This was a fantastic audiobook, definitely one of my favourites of the year, bringing to life the voice of Susan and the British turns of phrase … I kept finding jobs to do so I could continue listening!

I usually think describing a book as similar to another actually does it a disservice, as you come in with expectations that aren’t met or a closed off mind. So when The Cactus was heralded as the next Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine … I was skeptical, being that it is one of my all time favourite books. But that statement couldn’t describe this book better. Susan is a judgmental no-nonsense curmudgeon, who is hiding very real pain behind all those thorns.

She won’t be for everyone. I can see many people taking a strong dislike to Susan – her negativity, her brashness, her opinionated “mightier than thou” attitude can just come across cold and mean. But if you are a fan of layered, complex characters who hide great pain and heart, then you will love Susan. If you are a person who also puts up thick walls to protect themselves from great hurt as a learned response from past pain, you’ll see yourself strongly resonated in this character.

Overall this is a story about acceptance (yourself and others), a conversation on feminism, found family, childhood trauma, loss, grief, and the great risk of opening up all wrapped up in a gentle, charming story that plots along steadily. This will appeal to all character driven, curmudgeon-loving fans. I found it heartfelt and utterly charming.

These days fairytale endings come in all shapes and sizes. It’s okay for the princess to end up with the prince, it’s okay for her to end up with the footman, it’s okay for her to end up on her own. It’s also okay for her to end up with another princess, or with six cats, or to decide she wants to be a prince. None of those make her any more or less a feminist.”

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