*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*
What She Left by Rosie Fiore
Helen Cooper has a charmed life. She’s beautiful, accomplished, organised – the star parent at the school. Until she disappears.
But Helen wasn’t abducted or murdered. She’s chosen to walk away, abandoning her family, husband Sam, and her home.
Where has Helen gone, and why? What has driven her from her seemingly perfect life? What is she looking for? Sam is tormented by these questions, and gradually begins to lose his grip on work and his family life.
He sees Helen everywhere in the faces of strangers. He’s losing control.
But then one day, it really is Helen’s face he sees…
I thought this novel’s plot would surround the societal taboo of; the mother who walks away from her family.
But it was so much more than that and had further layers than I first believed. The novel does portray Helen, the ‘perfect mother’ who walks away from her husband Sam, and her two young daughters Miranda and Marguerite. But you get so much more of the story when it is delivered by the various points of view……
The opening depicts Helen, as she takes the drastic plunge and walks away from her family. The aftermath of her absence is felt by not just her small family. But by a community of busybodies and gossips. Her husband Sam is fraught with panic and anxiety; believing she must have come to harm.
When he is informed by local PC’s Shah and Stevens, that is not the case. He is left devastated, with so many questions, he fears will never be answered.
The narrative switches between Sam, his daughter Miranda and Lara at the beginning. Lara is a fellow parent at the children’s school. She is not friends with Helen. But is aware of her by reputation. Helen is the mother, that is the queen bee. The pillar of the local PTA’s community. But it is single mother Lara, who becomes the mother figure to the girl’s left behind, in Helens absence.
‘Helen, who was as constant as the sea’
Sam’s parents and younger brother Tim rally round, with support and kindness. But Sam is still left feeling incomplete without Helen in his life. It is only when, on one of many occasions, he gets drunk with his brother and the truth comes tumbling out. Maybe their perfect life wasn’t so perfect after all.
As the reader starts to question, is Helen really who she portrays herself to be? Is Sam so completely innocent in his wife’s disappearance?
Sam begins to start his own mini investigation into where Helen has gone. This involves searches of the internet and Helen’s belongings. This throws up no clues and only leads him to believe; Helen’s absence is a premediated act. Helen had planned to leave, with no trail of clues behind her.
Part two of the story focuses on six months later Sam has built up a relationship with Lara. His finances and career are a mess. But he is making basic attempts to get his life back into some kind of order.
His daughter Miranda on the other hand, is in deep emotional pain.
She longs for Helen and the neat orderly lifestyle, she created for the girls.
Sam’s unanswered questions burn away at his internal thoughts. Until He becomes enraged with thoughts of revenge. He begins drinking heavily and this only fuels his inner rage. Sam is a man on the edge!
Part three of the novel does cover the conclusion of what happens when Sam finally bumps into Helen. It is an ending that does fully explore the intentions of both Sam and Helen during their short marriage. The responsibilities of adult life and parenting; weigh heavy on the shoulders of some people. Between the secrets of the past and the burdens of the future, the truth is finally revealed.
This novel felt incredibly real to life. We all know those couples who portray the ‘perfect persona’ but what happens when the façade slips away? What happens when, who you really are is brought out into the open for everyone to see?
Rosie Fiore was born and grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. She studied drama at the University of the Witwatersrand and has worked as a writer for theatre, television, magazines, advertising, comedy and the corporate market.
Her first two novels, This Year’s Black and Lame Angel were published by Struik in South Africa. This Year’s Black was longlisted for the South African Sunday Times Literary Award and has subsequently been re-released as an e-book. Babies in Waiting, Wonder Women and Holly at Christmas were published by Quercus. She is the author of After Isabella, also published by Allen & Unwin.
Rosie’s next book, The After Wife (written as Cass Hunter), will be published by Trapeze in 2018, and in translation is seven countries around the world.
Rosie lives in London with her husband and two sons.