‘I’m scared of so many things these days, but most of all now, I fear myself.’
The four Walsh siblings are coming to terms with the imminent death of their father, Patrick. Ill with both dementia and heart failure, he has been the only parent they have known for most of their lives. Tim is the oldest. Next are twins Ruth and Jeremy, then Beth. Fewer than four years separate oldest and youngest. Beth and her husband have a five-month-old son, Noah.
Once Patrick is moved into a care facility, the siblings must decide what to do with the house. Beth volunteers to start the clearing process. Anything to keep busy. Anything to stop her thinking about her impending loss. Anything to try to avoid her fear that she is failing as a parent to Noah.
Beth finds the door to the attic closed and padlocked. Once she gains entry, she’s shocked by what she finds inside. Her father, normally fastidious, has hoarded rubbish. There are also paintings he did, discarded papers and notes which seem to have been written by her mother, Grace. But the dates seem wrong. The Walsh siblings believed that their mother had died in a car accident, but one of the notes Beth finds reads like a suicide note. Beth has memories of her mother reading to her, and those memories can’t be accurate if the dates on some of the papers she finds are correct. Beth’s father can’t help: his dementia is robbing him of speech.
Beth herself is suffering. She is not sleeping, not managing and has withdrawn from family and friends. She’s in denial that anything is wrong.
What follows is a gripping story about family, about challenges and choices, about expectations, about the fact and impact of post-natal depression. Three voices tell the story across two generations: Grace, her sister Maryanne and Beth.
What really happened to Grace? Can Beth accept help? Post-natal depression is one of those cruel diseases that women often suffer in silence, feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. While there is (generally) more assistance available today, many women feel that asking for help is a sign of failure. It isn’t. This novel touches on several important issues: including access to inexpensive contraception and to legal abortion.
I picked this novel up and read it during a day. I couldn’t put it down. I needed to know how it would end. Well worth reading.
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.