4.5 Stars (almost a 5, or let’s say, 9/10)
Imagine if you will, a family. It seems like a perfect family. Mom, Joan, Dad, George, Son, Andrew and Daughter Sadie. Mom is a nurse, Dad is a respected teacher, Andrew is a lawyer and Sadie is in her last year of high school and has a boyfriend, Jimmy and a best friend, Amanda. George is a hero, too, because he stopped a gunman in the private school where he taught back when Sadie was younger. He is voted Teacher of the Year every year.
Now imagine an accusation against George of a terrible nature. It’s the kind of accusation that ruins lives, often even if it isn’t true. Did George interfere with those young teenagers? Are they conspiring against him? Why would they? Accusations don’t just affect the accused, either. They affect the family members. People don’t believe that the family had no idea this was happening and there’s a lot of anger, bullying and disdain heaped on them. George says he didn’t do it. Is he believed unconditionally by his faithful wife and loving children? Will they stand behind him and support him? Who will support them? And what if they don’t believe him down deep? How do you reconcile the man you thought you knew with someone who could lie so well and deceive you, well, deceive everyone you know for years. Could you ever trust anyone at their word ever again?
How do you deal with it? How does not dealing with it change your life, change you?
This book explores all of that and more, the suspicions, the grief, the cracks in the family. Everyone deals with the trauma in a different way. Joan retreats into denial or lashes out in anger, Andrew is angry but doggedly supportive, and Sadie goes off the rails with all her friends against her while they wait for the trial, nearly a year after the arrest. How do you find some sense of normalcy while living in limbo? They find out who their friends are and who they aren’t and find out that there might be friends that are more deceptive than they realized. Relationships buckle under pressure.
I really liked the book and the story kept me turning the pages, involved in the lives of the family members and their friends and partners. The journey of the family members all felt logical and real for the characters. The only thing I wasn’t really satisfied with was the ending and the epilogue which felt a bit too tidy, then resigned and it wrapped up far too quickly but I can’t bring the rating down a full star for that though if it was a scale of 10 I’d go for a 9.
Zoe Whittall is a very talented Canadian writer. This book reached the Giller Prize shortlist for 2016 on the strength of its themes of family, loyalty, trust and truth and as a Giller nominee, this also fills one of my 2017 CanadianContent Bingo Challenge squares.