Sisters Lexie and Annie haven’t seen each other in years. The path of addiction has taken Annie to some dark places, whilst her older sister Lexie has managed to strive ahead with her medical career and is looking forward to soon tying the knot with her doctor fiancé. Lexie has had her life near derailed by periodic reappearances of the drug addicted Annie over the years and has no desire to experience that kind of emotional and financial loss again. It just takes too much to control the uncontrollable.
BEFORE I LET YOU GO goes down the path of teaching, not preaching, and the colossal unfairness of addiction is empathetically portrayed here in what it is a very entertaining read. This is a book you will knock off in just a few seatings as you get caught up in wanting to see Annie through to the other side, and for both sisters to receive a happy ending that is as far away from their frightening shared childhood as possible. The back history of the two sisters is mostly narrated by journal entries of Annie, whose writing knack has never left her during the ‘lost’ years of addiction. You will feel every minute of Lexie’s righteous frustration both at the choices her sister has made, and with the obstructive nature of the process that is inevitable when a mother close to giving birth is still dangerously in the throes of a full-blown drug addiction.
The catalyst for Annie’s destructive path is buried in the past and is revealed piece by piece as Annie is walked through the process of introspective therapy. BEFORE I LET YOU GO successfully manages to relate without judgement all of the small falls and large falls from grace that lead to a young person ending up in such dire circumstances. There is some soft pedalling; much more visceral passages could have been included for sure, but perhaps they may have taken away from the focus of family ties.
The plight of being pregnant whilst addicted to hard drugs is tragic enough, and we definitely don’t hear much about what happens to the children that are conceived and delivered with so many physical and mental challenges to be faced from day one. Looking after newborns going through withdrawal would be nothing anyone would ever want to face, yet in this novel it is family bonds sources that strength. Love is virtually the only thing strong enough to slay such large dragons.
REVIEW - AN ISOLATED INCIDENT by Emily Maguire
Like in most small towns, Strathdee knows its residents well and the pace of life can be slow to the point of terminal boredom. No one knows this more than Chris Michaels, local queen of the bar. What has kept Chris on the good path up to now has been her younger sister Bella, all around saint and one of those people that no one has a bad word for. It was always Bella that saw the good in everybody and who propped Chris up when she was in danger of falling down after her marriage went south.
Wouldn't be too quick to classify this one as a psychological thriller as there is very little simmering tension in watching the lead character disintegrate a little day by day. The whole tone of the book is rather desultory, which fits in well with the remote country town setting where things take a while to happen. The death of Bella is a killing without purpose and the struggle that Chris feels in carrying on with normal life is both relatable and genuine. AN ISOLATED INCIDENT has an excellent sense of place and is very easy to project yourself into the setting of the small town who is increasingly being left behind. There is little mystery in this novel, but you will be concerned of how Chris will come out the other side of her grief and face each new day without her beloved sister being in the world. A slow moving novel about loss; both its enormity and of how shocking it is to the grieving that life simply must go on, regardless of what has been unexpectedly and horrifically taken from them.