#BookReview – If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

Audrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.

As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?

Published  21st February 2019 by Orion Books (UK) 

~ Review ~ 

Oh wow. I don’t even know where to start with this review. It’s taken me all morning just to get started and I’ve deleted and started again a zillion times. So forgive me but I’m going to gush. THIS BOOK IS BEAUTIFUL! From the cover (I mean, Look at it!) to the gorgeously tender, heartbreaking and touching story inside – BEAUTIFUL.

I was lucky enough to discover Hannah Beckerman five years ago when I was sent a signed copy of her debut novel The Dead Wife’s Handbook (Which I reviewed HERE) and so was eager to read her long awaited second novel. And I was not disappointed.

If Only I Could Tell You is a story of a fractured family, a decades old rift and secrets that have never been shared. Audrey’s daughters Jess and Lily haven’t spoken since childhood and now thirty years later, with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Audrey is determined she will bring them together before she dies.

I love Hannah’s incredibly honest and raw writing, she captures the very essence of humans. In If Only I Could Tell You, fear of the truth and a desire to shield and protect leads to half truths and misunderstandings. How often do we make presumptions without fully understanding the truth? How easy is it to let weeks, months, years slip by, the longer that passes, the harder it is to reconnect. How many of us have looked back and thought “if only”?  I could relate to so many of the emotions and questions raised in this book, as I’m sure most people will.

The book is told in chapters from all three women – Audrey as she faces the end of her life, reflects on the past and yearns to reunite her daughters. Lily, who appears to have it all – success, poise and a need to be very much in control.  And Jess, who refuses to tell Audrey just why she can’t forgive her sister. The reader really feels as if they get know each woman and understands what drives them.

Interspersed are flashbacks to the past  and a slowly revealed secret that will both shock and break your heart. I was so unprepared for the truth, it took my breath away, had tears streaming down my face and my daughter asking if I was ok with great concern. This book tackles subjects of such sadness and grief, yet it is so beautifully and thoughtfully written, it truly is breathtaking at times. And despite the sadness, there comes an uplifting air and I ended it with a smile through the tears and a sigh of hope.

I read If Only I Could Tell You over an afternoon, where I had so many other things I should’ve been doing but could not bare to tear myself away. I was fully immersed in the three women’s lives and mesmorised as the tragic and touching story unfolded.  I genuinely can not recommend this book enough and already know it’s going to feature highly on my books of 2019 list.

(I read an advance proof copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program)  

 

 

 

Book Review: The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

Sometimes, the minute you lay eyes on a book you just know it’s going to be a good one. That’s exactly what happened when The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman dropped through my letterbox completely out of the blue. The synopsis, the title, the colours of the cover…it all appealed to me and I knew it would be exactly my kind of book.

Rachel is at a point where she’s really happy with her life. She has a fantastic marriage, job, friends and family as well as the sweetest daughter, six year old Ellie. But then, with no warning, Rachel dies. Just like that. One minute she’s enjoying a romantic meal out with her husband, Max-the next she has heart attack. We join Rachel in her afterlife, one year on from that fateful night as she narrates us through the grieving process she sporadically witnesses her family going through, as well as her own.

We all say that should we die, we’d want our loved ones to move on. We mean it too. I don’t think many people would wish for our loved ones to constantly grieve, lock themselves away and fail to live their lives the best they can. But what if we witnessed this moving on? How would it feel to see your husband fall in love with someone else? The memory of you begin to fade from your children’s lives? Seeing the life you should have had being played out before you, minus you?  Jealous, angry, hurt? Even if rationally you know it’s right. And this is how Rachel feels as she drifts between a white nothingness interspersed with brief ‘access’ to moments of Ellie and Max’s lives as they begin to move on.

I think it’s a credit to how sensitively Hannah Beckerman writes Rachel that I was pretty much immediately on side and sympathetic to her. Rachel is already dead when the novel starts, so we never get a chance to connect with her alive. It could have gone wrong, and she could have come across as bitter and awful. Instead, I empathised with her and it made me think about how I would feel. Honestly? Probably the same.

But at the same time I felt sorry for the ones left behind and thought Max’s portrayal was especially thoughtful and endearing as he struggles between people telling him it’s time to move on and the feeling that it’s too soon. His first, tentative steps into the dating scene are filled with guilt, awkwardness and uncertainty. It’s also injected with very subtle hints of humour which bring with it a realistic and human element. This is as much Max’s story as Rachel’s, if not more. As a mother to a daughter of very similar age to Ellie, I found Rachel’s observations of her life particularly heart breaking and fully understood them. Ellie herself was sweet, if a little underestimated in her maturity. I think, perhaps, I feel this through comparing her to my own daughter rather than it being a criticism. It does go to show how well I did connect with Rachel, that I could fully put myself in her place.

The Dead Wife’s Handbook is an incredibly original and touching book. At it’s heart is a fear we all have- “Will I be remembered?” Rachel’s journey through her family’s lives in the two years following her death is both sad, yet heart warming and reassuring. It’s definitely a book I’ll remember and one I’d happily recommend.

Published by Penguin UK February 2013