Book review: Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer

Friday, February 23, 2018 Permalink

I’d not heard of novelist Kelly Rimmer before this new release. But… in the lead up to publication I’d been seeing Before I Let You Go everywhere, so naturally I was happy to jump on that bandwagon and relieved that it turned up for review a few weeks prior to its release.

It’s the sort of book I often think of as ‘genre-less’. If that makes sense. Other recent reads like, Louise Allan’s The Sisters’ Song and The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns are similar. Women’s fiction serves up connotations of chick lit or something frivolous; which is certainly not the case. So general fiction perhaps? (And I actually wonder if it really matters?!!!) #genreschmonre

It’s also the sort of book I very much appreciate. Rimmer hasn’t written it to any prescribed or decorous code of conduct. That’s not to say it’s not possible to guess what’s coming; cos it is, but that’s because the options are limited… as it’s reminiscent of real life in many ways.

Book review: Before I Let You Go by Kelly RimmerBefore I Let You Go
by Kelly Rimmer
Published by Hachette Australia
on February 27th 2018
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction
ISBN: 0733639178, 9780733639173
Pages: 352

As children, Lexie and Annie were incredibly close. Bonded by the death of their beloved father and their mother's swift remarriage, they weathered the storms of life together. When Lexie leaves home to follow her dream, Annie is forced to turn to her leather-bound journal as the only place she can confide her deepest secrets and fears...

As adults, sisters Lexie and Annie could not be more different. Lexie is a doctor, successful in her practice and happily engaged. Annie is addicted to heroin - a thief, a liar, and unable to remain clean despite the fact that she is pregnant. When Annie's newborn baby is in danger of being placed in foster care, Annie picks up the phone to beg her sister for help. Will Lexie agree to help and take in her young niece? And how will Annie survive, losing the only thing in her life worth living for?

The cold hard truth of this book and the story it shares is that there are only a few ways things could possibly unfold. I might be more cynical than your average reader but I wasn’t expecting a happily ever after (HEA). Sure, there’s a strong sense that Annie is desperate to kick her habit and be the mother her child needs, but in a non-fairytale world stories don’t end when the prince puts the slipper on Cinderella’s foot; or the (other) prince kisses Snow White to wake her. In the real world there are post-HEA lives to be lead. Toilet seats left up, hair left in the sink, dishes left on benches. And kicking an addiction isn’t a ‘Phew, it’s done’ thing. It’s an ongoing battle.

However, this book isn’t completely about ‘what’s next?’. It’s more about how Annie reached this point in her life. It’s about the relationship between Annie and Lexie. It’s about Lexie and the role she’s adopted when forced to ‘parent’ her younger sister. It’s about blame and guilt and everything in between. And it’s about loss and love.

Annie and Lexie’s life was most certainly impacted by the loss of their father when they were young. But it was also the ‘what happened after’ that shaped Annie’s future. And took her in a different direction to her beloved sister.

The book is written from the point of view of both sisters. We’re in Lexie’s head in the present, but that’s interspersed with Annie’s diary (or journal) entries as she contemplates her life – as part of her therapy. Interestingly they’re not sharing different sides of the same story, but completely different stories… a reminder that we can keep so much from those who love and know us best.

I adored Lexie’s fiance Sam. I’m a huge cynic, so like Lexie, I was shocked that romantic love can be so selfless that someone unconditionally loves another, warts (drug-addicted family) ‘n’ all. I had to remind myself I wasn’t reading psychological thriller and that Sam wasn’t necessarily going to turn out to be a psycho killer. Or similar.

The other impressive element of this book is the grey. Although Sam may be practically perfect in every way, Lexie tests that resolve and their relationship because of her inability to ask for help, or let anyone share her burden. But she’s forced to confront her own enabling (albeit) well-meaning behaviour; the role she’s played in Annie’s downward spiral via the satisfaction she gains from saving or protecting her sister. Again and again.

And the book’s villains: the girls’ mother Deborah; even the child protection social worker Mary; and drug rehab counsellor Luke, are presented in varying degrees of (un)likeability. It’s tempting to hate them. And yet….

This book felt very real. Believable. It does a very good job at neither demonising nor glorifying addiction… And of course it’s even more challenging for Lexie as a doctor.

Our training tells us that addiction is a disease, too; a disease with no real cure, a disease that’s difficult to treat. But human nature wants to ignore that training, and to pretend it’s some kind of moral weakness that has brought Annie to where she is now. Maybe we need to believe she’s chosen this life, or that she deserves it somehow, because the alternative is unbearable, unfathomable – even if she is completely blameless, we’re going to be repulsed by her. And besides which, if she’s a pregnant drug addict because she’s a bad person, then she’s not like us: we’re good people. We could never find ourselves in her position. We are comforted by our sense of smug superiority. It’s a security blanket, a shield. p 28

Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer will be published in Australia by Hachette and available in late February 2018.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.



Comments are closed.