Book review: The Spill by Imbi Neeme

Sunday, June 7, 2020 Permalink

The blurb of The Spill by Imbi Neeme talks about the relationship between two sisters who remember their childhoods quite differently.

I was intrigued by that as I often have very specific memories of events from my childhood or teenage years which my mother debunks. They feel real or true to me and yet mum is like… “That didn’t happen.” It’s weird, to misremember things. I ponder how those memories were planted in my head. Were they things I wanted or thought at the time, or have they replaced the real events with the advantage of hindsight or wistfulness years later.

Book review: The Spill by Imbi NeemeThe Spill
by Imbi Neeme
Published by Viking
on 02/06/2020
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction
ISBN: 9781760893767
Pages: 336

In 1981, a car overturns on a remote West Australian road. Nobody is hurt, but the impact is felt for decades.

Nicole and Samantha Cooper both remember the summer day when their mother, Tina, lost control of their car - but not in quite the same way. It is only after Tina's death, almost four decades later, that the sisters are forced to reckon with the repercussions of the crash. Nicole, after years of sabotaging her own happiness, seems finally content but still can't get through to her sister. And Samantha is hiding something that might just tear apart the life she's worked so hard to build for herself.

Incidentally, this is actually less about Nicole and Samantha remembering things differently, but rather having different experiences growing up. The divergence starts after the car accident which is soon followed by their parents’ divorce. The car accident is—in many ways—either a marker or trigger for everything that comes after, depending on which of the sisters is narrating.

I’d just finished a book (The Broken Ones) about two sisters in a really close and (mostly) healthy relationship when I read this. (I’m also watching the TV show Fleabag which features sisters in a love/hate kind of relationship.)

I hate using the word bittersweet as it seems like a cliche but it’s actually apt for this book.

It’s very much about relationships – familial and romantic. It’s about secrets and a lack of honesty (which I think is something different). Things aren’t shared. Things are held back and their impact resonates for years to come. Things not shared also result in misunderstandings exacerbated over the years. Cracks grow bigger and become almost impossible to mend.

It made me ponder what I share with ‘family’ and friends. I tend to be an over-sharer but there are some unexpected things I hold back. It also made me consider what I ‘expect’ family or loved ones to share with me.

Here there’s a question of how much our characters expect to know about the lives of each other and how much they need or deserve to know. And obviously that varies between individuals, based on their levels of comfort and… to some extent, habit.

There’s also an interesting examination of relationships. Between Nicole and Samantha as well as the sisters with their mother and their father – together and separately. In addition to those of siblings and parents and children there are the romantic relationships. That of Nicole and Jethro; Samantha and Trent; and the father and.. well, his wives.

Ultimately we’re reminded of the importance of family… such as it sometimes is. (A few adages come to mind: you can’t choose your family; the sins of the father (or mother) etc…) But we’re also reminded of how secrets or things unsaid can fester until it’s possibly too late.

The Spill by Imbi Neeme was published in Australia by Viking (Penguin) and is now available.

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


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