Thursday, 12 April 2018

Before I Let You Go

Before I Let You Go is quite a departure from my usual reading tastes. I'd never heard of Kelly Rimmer before I saw the publicity for this book, despite the fact that we live in the same, small Australian town. There are a few reasons for this, as I said it's not a book that I'd usually pick up, and Kelly has had a really interesting path in publishing. She has written four books previously, but these have only been available digitally (at least in Australia, and I think worldwide). But she has achieved extraordinary success along the way. She has sold more than 600,000 digital books, and been translated into 20 languages! And now she is being sold in print for the first time. Obviously her star is on the rise which is fabulous news. I was lucky to be able to attend a local launch, meet Kelly, and get a signed copy. 

Before I Let You Go is the story of two sisters, Lexie and Annie, told in alternating first person voices. The sisters had a difficult upbringing after their father died and their mother remarries. The older girl, Lexie, leaves as soon as she can at 16 and goes on to become a doctor. Annie grows up to a very different life, she is to become an intravenous drug user. Then she becomes pregnant, which is the start of the story. These circumstances would be difficult enough anywhere, but Before I Let You Go is set in Alabama where a law regarding Chemical Endangerment of a Child was enacted in 2006. The law was originally intended to keep children out of meth labs, a completely reasonable aim, however the scope was broadened to include pregnant women using drugs, and babies who test positive to illegal drugs, which is not reasonable, not sensible and in fact dangerous.

I enjoyed the alternating first person voices. This was never confusing as the chapters were clearly named, and different fonts are used for each sister. Annie's sections were written in a journal format style in italics as opposed to Lexie's more conventional narrative. For all of her bad choices, Annie was a warmer, more likeable character, while I found Lexie more difficult, full of anxiety, hand wringing, and burdened by the weight of her own expectations. 
You love like that only once in a lifetime - you can love from a place of innocence only once. 
Both Lexie and her fiancé Sam are doctors, and I had quibbles with some of their characterisations at times. There were also some medical errors which grated, but that is probably something that most readers wouldn't necessarily notice- a "BP monitor" on a forefinger, and two doctors ignoring a fever in a neonate. Fevers in babies less than three months are a big deal, and not just ascribed to being a "first cold".

However, I was really disappointed to find that my Australian copy which proudly proclaims BEST SELLING AUSTRALIAN AUTHOR on the front cover was indeed full of Americanisms. There was no attempt whatsoever to modify the language for Australian publication- and every time I read Mom, acetaminophen or diaper my blood pressure rose. This is a particular hobby horse of mine, I realise that, and yes, I know that this is an American story, but it was printed for an Australian audience, it should be published for us. 

My library now has print copies of all four of her previous books (and they are being heavily borrowed which is great to see). All of those prior books are set in Australia, I will certainly be interested to take a look at one of them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this review Louise (BTW I don't think you've added it to the AWW database yet??)

The book I'm reading at the moment is about two brothers and told in alternating voices, each one named in the chapter heading too (though no different fonts.)

I'm not sure what to think about the Americanisms. If those words are used in dialogue then they probably should use the language the speakers would use? If they are not in dialogue then I'd find Americanisms weird, but if some were dialogue and some not then would it need to be consistent. Why did she set the story in the US in the first place??

(If you answer all this I probably won't know because blogger won't notify me, I'm afraid.)