Title: Before I Let You Go
Author: Kelly Rimmer
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Published: 27th February 2018
Synopsis: Your sister needs you. But her child needs you more… A moving page-turner with a heart-pounding dilemma: Your sister or her baby. Who do you choose? Fans of Jodi Picoult and Jojo Moyes will love Australia’s Kelly Rimmer.
As children, Lexie and Annie were incredibly close. Bonded by the death of their beloved father, 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 successful doctor and happily engaged. Annie is an addict – a thief, a liar and unable to remain clean. 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 take in her young niece? And how will Annie survive, losing the only thing in her life worth living for?
What do you do when your sister, an addict, tells you she’s pregnant and needs your help? BEFORE I LET YOU GO is the stunning new novel from Kelly Rimmer, internationally bestselling Australian author of THE SECRET DAUGHTER, ME WITHOUT YOU, WHEN I LOST YOU and A MOTHER’S CONFESSION.
For years, Lexie has looked out for her little sister, Annie. As children, they were happy, and safe, and enjoyed being close and playing with each other. For a few years, they live a happy life with their parents, until the day their father dies. The next twelve months alter the girls, and define them, and bring them closer together as Lexie does her best to take care of her mother and her younger sister, though she is still a child herself. Soon, their mother remarries and moves them away from all they know, into a world they hate, a place they don’t feel free. In Winterton, they are forced into an ideology and behaviour they wish to resist. To stay safe, Lexie doesn’t, and begs Annie to do the same, but Annie’s spirit refuses to break, and a separation of a couple of years before Annie can escape threatens to keep them apart forever. But the love they have for each other keeps them going, and ensures their reunion, until Annie starts to spiral, and fall into addiction, causing a two-year separation that ends when Annie calls Lexie in a panic: she’s pregnant and needs help. Lexie and her fiancé, Sam, step in, and get her into hospital, and do everything they can to help her. They ensure her baby is taken into a loving home -theirs – to ensure the child is safe and doesn’t have a disruptive start to life. But Lexie is constantly questioning herself, and Annie – unsure if they can make it through, and unsure about letting people in to help her – she’s been alone for so long, she feels she has to do things for herself.
Kelly Rimmer has told the novel in alternating perspectives – Lexie and Annie. Lexie tells her story in the present, as she interacts with Annie, Sam, the doctors and her mother, whilst Annie’s are told in journal entries, to Luke, who turns out to be the director of the rehab clinic she is at as part of her court ordered rehab, due to a chemical endangerment charge. Set in Alabama, the story explores the way the society and people involved viewed Annie as a drug addict, and the judgements placed on her, encapsulating the spectrum of how different people reacted and what they would try to do, or in some cases, not do to help. For Lexie, finding a way to let go and let others help her became her journey, as she watched Annie struggle to detox, so she could get back to her daughter, Lexie’s niece, Daisy. The story examines the dynamics of the sisters with each other, and those around them: Sam, the other doctors, those involved in Annie’s case, Daisy, and their mother, Deborah and step-father, Robert. Annie’s journal entries reveal more of their childhood than Lexie’s recollections – she has tried to move on, and distance herself from that life, whereas Annie’s experiences are laid out in the journal entries, where what she went through is revealed entry by entry. Combined, the sister’s story becomes whole, as secrets and reasons for being the way they are become clearer as the novel goes on.
The stark differences in the sisters is clear from the early chapters: Lexie, who found a way to fly under the radar of her stepfather and suffocating religious community, has in some ways thrived: she has studied, and become a doctor, has a house and a fiancé. Yet she has also built up walls that are shaken whenever Annie re-enters her life, and she’s spent years picking up the pieces on her own, without reaching out for help. She doesn’t know how to, feels like she has to do this alone because her mother nor anybody else has ever tried. Annie, several years younger, and unable to leave with her sister, suffers until she is fourteen, though she tries to change her attitudes and stop rebelling, she finds herself flying down a different path – a path of defiance. It is a story that is heartbreaking and hopeful, and eye-opening – the questions it raises are important ones surrounding addiction and blame, and what choices might be made at various points in our lives that trigger what is to come.
Nobody is perfect in this novel, they all have their flaws. Even Sam, who is perfect to Lexie, is still human and struggles to cope with the way Lexie deals with Annie and her issues. It is a tough topic to tackle and read about, but it is a book that aims to show differing views and understandings of addiction and how it impacts the user and their family, as well as the conflicting feelings of addicts and who to blame, or what to blame. At the same time, it is the touching story of two sisters whose harsh childhood set them on different paths, and what it took for them to escape and build their own lives.
A touching, raw and emotional novel, Kelly Rimmer has done an eloquent job dealing with an issue that has many shades of grey, and no one answer or fix for it.