I starting reading this book amidst a terrible case of murder / suicide in my home state. Domestic violence rather than child abuse reared its ugly head but it involved the murder of a family – as a result – there have been many discussions since about men hurting children they purport to love.
Kelly Rimmer’s latest book Truths I Never Told You unfolds from the points of view of two women. One struggling to engage with her child, and the other struggling against the urge to lash out and harm hers.Truths I Never Told You
by Kelly Rimmer
Published by Hachette Australia
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Women's Fiction
With her father recently moved to a care facility for his worsening dementia, Beth Walsh volunteers to clear out the family home and is surprised to discover the door to her childhood playroom padlocked. She’s even more shocked at what’s behind it—a hoarder’s mess of her father’s paintings, mounds of discarded papers and miscellaneous junk in the otherwise fastidiously tidy house.
As she picks through the clutter, she finds a loose journal entry in what appears to be her late mother’s handwriting. Beth and her siblings grew up believing their mother died in a car accident when they were little more than toddlers, but this note suggests something much darker.
Beth soon pieces together a disturbing portrait of a woman suffering from postpartum depression and a husband who bears little resemblance to the loving father Beth and her siblings know. With a newborn of her own and struggling with motherhood, Beth finds there may be more tying her and her mother together than she ever suspected.
I don’t have children so probably relate less than most to the issues faced by parents (and mothers in particular). I keep vowing to stay away from books themed around motherhood but it’s hard as it’s at the centre of many novels I read… general fiction and domestic noir in particular. Thankfully here Rimmer also contemplates the other end of the life cycle given Beth’s elderly father has been diagnosed with semantic dementia and moving into a home.
It’s a sad case because Patrick’s memories are still intact, but he’s lost his language skills so unable to find the words and phrases he needs. Worse still, two of his children are health professionals and realise there’s little they can do.
As someone whose father had dementia for a number of years before passing I could very much understand his children’s guilt over not understanding his condition earlier; not to mention their occasional frustration that he’s unable to be the man they once knew.
Our hosts for this outing are Grace and Beth – almost 40 years apart.
Rimmer kicks off with Grace, in 1957, struggling with the youngest of her four children… all of them under four years of age. And in 1996 we meet Beth and her three siblings.
We’re placed in Grace’s mind through the diary entries and it’s as if she’s confiding in us directly. She knows her feelings – brought about by post-natal depression most likely – will lift and most of the time feels nothing but love for her children. But at others finds herself fantasising about hurting them.
Beth reads Grace’s diary entries as someone who barely remembers her mother. I suspect it’s not the (post natal) depression that surprises her, but her mother’s brutal honesty about her feelings and fear she’s a danger to her own children.
Beth’s also shocked at the father portrayed in the journals… a man who let his wife become isolated and who withdrew rather than provide support or help. Her father – who raised Beth and her siblings single-handed – has been nothing like that and she struggles to reconcile both in her mind.
I liked the way Rimmer brings Beth’s struggles to the fore. She’s a psychologist so very conscious of her feelings and (understandably) concerned about how she’ll be perceived.
I particularly appreciated the way Beth’s family (her siblings, husband and in-laws) are portrayed here. The relationships felt very real. Supportive. Overly intrusive at times but borne of love and concern rather than anything controlling or distrustful.
In addition to strong themes around families (and family legacies), motherhood and relationships, Rimmer very articulately raises issues faced by generations before ours. It’s a reminder we take women’s rights and reproductive rights for granted; and of the struggles faced by previous generations. (A continuing issue for some communities and cultures of course!)
There’s also some lessons around how well we know someone and / or their ability to change. And of people doing dire things in dire circumstances, and the regret that often follows.
I’ve enjoyed all three novels I’ve read by Kelly Rimmer. This new release will appeal to many and offers readers A LOT of fodder to ponder. I’d also certainly point potential readers in the direction of Before I Let You Go published in 2018, and The Things We Cannot Say published in 2019, both similarly themed, around families and family relationships.
Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer was published in Australia by Hachette and available from 25 February 2020.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.