Before I let you go by Kelly Rimmer
Hachette, 2018. ISBN 9780733639173
(Age: Senior secondary +)This is a stunning modern narrative evoking some of the hardest issues that humans face. With a 2am phone call, Annie is plunged back into her troubled sister's life, realizing that she is being called upon to help once more as she listens to her sister's despair. Kelly Rimmer has written this gripping story with an eye both on the past, and how it can so deeply and negatively effect one's future, while setting her story very much in the present. Annie is a successful young doctor, working in the same hospital as her partner, also a doctor, and planning to marry in the near future. Her sister's call not only evokes dark and disturbing memories of their childhood, but also forces her, and her partner, to respond beyond their expectations.
Stories of drug dependency are always going to evoke a sense of helplessness when a person is asked to respond to the care and needs of a family member, but this time, with a baby coming to her heroin-addicted sister, Lexie, Annie must be involved. The strong familial bond will be enough, Rimmer hints, early in the narrative, but she also raises the concerns of Annie's husband-to-be, her workplace, and quite simply, the time she will have to take off work to care for her sister and baby.
This novel is set in the USA, but shares the common story with the modern world of drug addiction and dysfunctional families. Rimmer extends her story back to the terrible events and cataclysmic effects of things that happened in childhood. When these are inconceivably bad, abusive and lastingly disturbing to the characters, then the writer is challenged to find a solution that makes sense to the reader. So we see that Rimmer carefully reveal the details of the past that explain the present, and suggests the best possibility for the future, evoking both deep familial love, forgiveness and tenderness that heal when life has handed too much to one with a broken spirit.
This is a riveting and beautifully crafted story, with the tragic and terrible events of the past acknowledged for their effect on the characters, yet evoking our empathy through descriptions of the deep love, support and care that families, at their best, engender. Rimmer deals with important and distressing issues so deftly that the novel is utterly captivating, while being 'heartachingly' sad. It would be acceptable for senior secondary reading but not for younger readers.