Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer

‘It’s remarkable how one person’s presence can disrupt every little thing that is ordinarily secure.’

When Lexie and Annie were young, living with their parents, life was good. But after their father died, their mother’s inability to cope meant that Lexie grew up quickly. She took care of Annie, looked after laundry and meals, got them both to school. Lexie and Annie were close.

But twelve months later, their mother remarried. His name was Robert. Life changed again, as Robert tried to control Lexie and Annie as well as their mother. Lexie had a dream, and when she turned sixteen she left home to pursue it. Annie had to stay behind.

Now adults, Lexie and Annie have taken very different paths. Lexie is a physician, engaged to a surgeon. Annie is an addict who will lie and steal to support her habit. Annie had caused Lexie grief in the past, but Lexie feels responsible for her younger sister. Even though they’ve not had contact for some time, Lexie has kept the same ‘phone number so that Annie can call her.

Early one morning, Lexie’s ‘phone rings. It’s Annie. She’s unwell, she’s high, and she’s pregnant. Annie wants Lexie’s help because: ‘If she fails a narcotics test, it’s quite likely that she’ll be charged with chemically endangering a child—and that’s a felony in Alabama.’

As Annie tries to beat her addiction for the sake of her baby, Lexie needs to learn to ask for help as well. Can Annie beat her addiction? Will the baby survive? Lexie finds it hard to share the responsibility she feels for Annie with her fiancé, Sam.

The story alternates between Annie and Lexie. Annie’s diary provides much of her story, while Lexie is in the present focussing on supporting Annie and trying to get the best possible outcome for the baby. It’s complex.

Once I started this novel, I found it difficult to put down. Ms Rimmer’s depiction of Annie’s addiction held my attention, while Lexie’s struggle to try to manage everything earned my sympathy. This is a finely developed story, mostly in shades of grey, as two women struggle to do what they believe is best. Both women need to revisit the past, and this is rarely easy. Sometimes the best solutions are not obvious. Sometimes there are no best solutions.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith