THIRTY-SIX-YEAR-OLD Camilla Stacey is confident, frank, fulfilled and secure in her choices to not have children, to eschew emotional relationships with men and to speak her mind daily via the immensely successful blog HowItIs.com. In the eyes of her half a million readers Cam is an idol; to her three older sisters, however, she is a sad, lonely figure unable to experience the true sense of accomplishment that only motherhood can generate.
For personal assistant Stella, looking into a mirror is a painful experience, every glance showing all too clearly the face of her identical twin, Alice, who like their mother was killed quickly and cruelly by aggressive cancer. Now Stella has learned she too carries the BRCA gene. Having her ovaries removed is the most sensible precaution yet Stella is not yet ready to abandon her hopes of having a baby – hopes that have just been thrown into further doubt by the unwillingness of her boyfriend to co-operate.
TV producer Tara, on the other hand, already has a child: Annie – the product of a one-night stand six years earlier. Raising a daughter alone is both a challenge and a joy for Tara: an achievement that outshines even her substantial screen credits. Now it seems this is about to unravel thanks to a semi-drunken indiscretion on what she thought was a largely deserted train. For a professional accustomed to disclosing other people’s dirty secrets, it’s mortifying having her own actions examined, debated and publicly mocked.
As the three strangers struggle to keep their lives in London in order, they reflect on not only each other’s decisions but also their own.
The Cows’ author, Dawn O’Porter, is an established TV reporter and print journalist known for her socially confronting documentaries on sexuality and body image – two themes that are repeated throughout this novel.