Frank and Jane, the parents of Liam, love each other very much. But Frank is breaking the law and, in Jane’s mind, he is putting their son in danger. So Jane takes Liam and moves away telling Frank to stay out of their lives. Frank does, but he misses his wife and son every day.
Liam and Emma, the parents of Alannah, love each other very much. Their family has been put under the intense strain of many army families. For months at a time, Emma is a single parent with all that that entails. While Liam is deployed overseas, she is in sole charge of their daughter. To ensure the safety of her husband while he is away she makes myriad ‘bargains’ with God. Superstitious rituals like not washing his last coffee mug. Keeping his dirty T-shirt under her pillow, etc. And, to her delight, he comes back home physically whole. What she didn’t foresee was that it would be a different man who returned. Liam is scarred mentally and suffers from PTSD. Always a neat freak, he now has what can only be termed as OCD. He has uncontrollable rages and has terrible nightmares. Emma cannot cope with this new reality and is weary of trying to hold her family together. When their daughter Alannah is scheduled to be away in a different city for two weeks to take part in a ballet, Emma checks into a hotel to rest, recharge, and unwind. This sets into motion a series of events that will forever change the family dynamic.
When she returns home, she finds that Alannah didn’t go on the dance trip. Liam took her and absconded…
Distraught, and fearful for her family Emma goes to the police.
Meanwhile, Alannah, though devoted as she is to her ballet, willingly chose to go with her father. At eleven years old, she harbours a secret that will rock her world and shatter her family’s fragile stability.
This is the third novel I’ve read by this author. I loved them all. This time around she is flexing her writing muscles by trying something quite unique and innovative. Chapters end mid-sentence and the next chapter picks up with the last word or two of that last sentence and continues on. Sometimes the new chapter is set in a different time period from the last one, sometimes the new chapter features a different narrator. Sounds a tad bizarre… but it works!
The story itself features ordinary families, all putting one foot in front of the other to get through what life throws at them. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Told with a brutal honesty, the story covers some serious subjects such as PTSD, war trauma, gender identity, caregiver’s burnout, parental love, and much more.
There are two timelines in play. The timeline when Frank, Jane and ten year old Liam spend time at a cottage near the sea. And… the present day timeline which features a grown and very damaged adult Liam who returns to this same cottage with his eleven year old daughter in tow.
The title is absolutely perfect. Liam Wright was a ‘soldier boy’. Though he was a tough, physically strong man, he was also as vulnerable as a little boy inside.
The multiple points of view means you empathize with every character and want a happy resolution to the many trials they face. But life rarely provides a happy resolution…
Highly recommended to readers who enjoy realistic literary fiction.
ISBN: 9781789551181 – ASIN: B08BW77XS1 – 294 pages
Cassandra Parkin has a Masters degree in English Literature from York University, and has been writing fiction all her life – mostly as Christmas and birthday presents for friends and family. She grew up in Hull, is married with two children, and lives in a small but perfectly-formed village in East Yorkshire. Her first book “New World Fairy Tales” won the 2011 Scott Prize for Short Stories. Her work has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. Her recent novels were published by Legend Press.
Follow Cassandra on Twitter @cassandrajaneuk