A fictional debut by Jane Caro, this story about coercive control sheds a light on an ugly and little-known side of domestic violence.
Newly-widowed, Miriam is grappling with her husband’s sudden death when her younger daughter, Ally marries a man she doesn’t know. Her relationship with Ally hasn’t always been steady made all the more difficult by her distance of a few hours where she lives in a country town. Ally’s new husband, Nick seems to say and do all the right things. Yet when he calls her to discuss Ally’s mental health issues after her son is born, Miriam is concerned enough to visit her daughter to help. After much cover up, the truth emerges of what has been going on behind closed doors when Ally eventually leaves Nick to seek refuge with Miriam. And so, this sets off a reign of terror unleashing a painful dilemma for Miriam about the right course of action.
The first half of the novel was understandably slow as we meet and understand the characters, in particular Miriam. You can’t help but feel sorry for her as she grapples with something she’s doesn’t understand. Her internalising for me was a little repetitive taking me out of the story at times.
Nevertheless, the author does a great job showing us what the subtlety of coercive control looks like. Is her Ally overreacting, believing she is the problem? Is Miriam really listening and questioning? Is anyone picking up the many red flags like surveillance, constant phone calls, and withholding money? The second half however really comes into its own as the tension and suspense rachets up. I was unable to put this one down until the end.
There was a struggle in my head as I put myself into Miriam’s place wondering what on earth I would do in the same situation. How far would you go to protect your children? Surprisingly, I think many of us would want to go as far as we could. But whether we have the capacity is another matter.
This story, while topical is nevertheless an important one highlighting the gaps in our collective understanding of coercive control and the law’s inability to do much about it. As I write, there is debate by our politicians to change the law as well as educate everyone about what it looks likes and its consequences. Until there are serious consequence for this type of control, then it will only continue.
This one is thought provoking and one to read.
This one has caught my interest. The what to do and the doing in any situation is so difficult. May have to go on tbr despite promises that until I finished all the books on the list I would not add any others.
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Yes, so many good books out there. Hope you like it when you do get to it.