Monday, 12 February 2018

Book Review: BEFORE I LET YOU GO by Kelly Rimmer

Author: Kelly Rimmer
Hachette Australia
February 2018
Expected publication: 27 February 2018
My Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ1/2

"Addiction is, in that way, just like love - in the early moments, you don't see the potential for it to bring you pain - it's just something you slide into between the laughs and smiles and moments of bliss. It's something that feels like a shield, until you realise it's actually a warhead, and it's pointed right at you."

Book Description:

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?

My musings:

I love dysfunctional family relationships as the basis of novels, and sisters always make for interesting dynamics. But Lexie and Annie take this to another level altogether! On one side there is Lexie, who is a successful doctor and engaged to a handsome surgeon. Then there is Annie, a pregnant drug addict living in a run-down trailer and spending every cent she can find on her next fix. How can these two women be from the same background? And what brought them here? Rimmer’s novel Before I Let You Go explores this question through the eyes of the two sisters as they meet up again when a pregnant and sick Annie calls her sister Lexie for help. Whilst Lexie’s POV is in the first person, Annie’s story is being told through journal entries she writes for her therapist whilst in rehab. It is a format that is tricky to pull off, but in this case it worked perfectly for me, as Annie goes back in time to explore events in her childhood that may have contributed to bringing her to the situation she is in at this point in time. And be warned, there is a lot of pain and heartbreak in her story!

Rimmer does an excellent job in exploring the topic of addiction and how it affects sufferers and their families, and she is not afraid to expose the dark, ugly side of the problem. As a nurse, I know that addiction is a huge drain on both the health system and families, and often sufferers have burnt all their bridges with their loved ones. Sometimes it is difficult to see past the manipulative and out-of-control behaviour of an addict and understand the true person behind it and what has brought them to this place. Rimmer does well to remind us that addiction is an illness, not a life-choice, even though sometimes it may appear that addicts choose this path. Reading through Annie’s story my heart broke many times over, even though her behaviour was infuriating at times. As a mother, I was quick to judge her for her apparent lack of insight and care for her unborn foetus, and yet as the story unfolded I could see the hurt little girl inside. I am grateful to the author for reminding me not to judge by offering a thought-provoking, insightful glimpse into Annie’s background. I also found the legal implications of Annie’s situation interesting and think it would make for a lively book club discussion, throwing up many ethical questions and emotions tied up with the subject.

Of the two sisters, Annie (despite all her problems) was the more believable and engaging character for me, and I admit I struggled at times to bond with Lexie, despite her being the one who supposedly has her life under control. I would have loved a bit more background to make me understand how a girl from such a dysfunctional family managed to leave it all behind and become a doctor. Especially since I found her to be quite whiny and weak at times, at odds with the strength and discipline it would have required for her to rise from the ashes of her damaged childhood and succeed in her career. Ditto for Sam, who remained a bit of an enigma throughout the book. The patience of a saint, he never once complains or gets flustered about Annie’s actions, which seemed a bit too good to be true. The result was that the later part of the book (which featured more of Lexie’s story) dragged a bit in places and made me skip ahead as my irritation with Lexie mounted. I would have liked a few chapters from Sam’s POV, which may have offered a more neutral look at the sisters and shed light on the points that didn’t quite add up for me. 


Before I Let You Go is an insightful family drama exploring the implications of a traumatic childhood and the devastating effects of addiction on individuals, their families and society as a whole. With many ethical dilemmas tied up in the story (such as the rights of the mother vs the welfare of the foetus / baby), it would make a fantastic bookclub read, opening the door for lively discussion that may challenge deeply ingrained belief systems. I recommend it to lovers of contemporary family drama who are not afraid of shedding a tear or two. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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