Reviewed by Pauline Seath
Two sisters. One baby. An impossible choice.
This is a story of the consequences of drug addiction, and unconditional sibling love.
Although this book opens with a desperate phone call to her older sister, this story is about the younger sister Annie and what has brought her to the situation she now faces. Annie’s sister Lexie, a doctor, and her fiance, Sam had not heard from Annie in a long time although this was not the first time they had to come to her rescue.
The book is a narration of the relationship between the two sisters. It is about Annie, but equally, it is about Lexie’s struggle to protect her sister from the consequences of their earlier life in a fundamentalist cult where their mother and stepfather had taken them when they were young. The story is about blame, and it is about guilt. It is a story of the strength that the older sister demonstrated in carving out a life for herself.
Annie is now a drug addict and she is pregnant. She faces having her child taken away from her and imprisonment herself. Lexie steps in to look after the child, who is suffering from withdrawal symptoms while Annie is treated in a rehab centre. This is love. Love from a sense of doing right, of standing by the one person who every time disappoints when the mess she has caused grows out of control, and she simply disappears and leaves the mess behind. Love also between Lexie and her partner. Sam stands at Lexie’s shoulder. His love is a strong support on which Lexie can always rely, however there are limits.
The decision Kelly Rimmer made to tell the story from the point of view of each sister was a brave one. Most of the time we follow events from where Lexie stands. We are privileged in knowing what she is feeling and doing, and grasping her motives for her actions in the book. On other occasions we get to see inside Annie’s thinking when she is required to keep a journal in rehab. Rimmer is an experienced novelist and knows that the stories or ideas reported or conveyed to the readers by each of her characters are not likely to be identical.
By agreeing to help Annie deal with a pregnancy at risk, Lexie risks her career, her friendships she has built up over the years, her own relationship. She quits her job to look after the baby, while Annie remains in the rehab facility. Lexie lays herself open, and it comes as no surprise that her soul is excoriated by episodes hidden in childhood which now have to be faced. Annie’s recuperation is no joy. She struggles with her demons, born out of long-hidden secrets from their childhood.
As the story unfolds, the reader cannot help but wonder what his/her response might have been if the positions of reader and main character were reversed.
It is a heartfelt story, both confronting and poignant.
Kelly Rimmer lives in rural Australia with her husband, two children and fantastically naughty dogs, Sully and Basil. She is well-credentialled as her novels have been translated into more than twenty languages.
I couldn’t put this book down, neither will you.
Before I let You Go
By Kelly Rimmer
ISBN 978 0 7336 3917 3