Summary: A deeply felt first novel of family, choices, and coming to terms with the past.
On a stifling Christmas Eve in 1967 the lives of the McDonald children-Deborah, Robert, James, and Meredith-changed forever. Their mother, Rosemarie, told them she was running out to buy some lights for the tree. She never came back. The children were left with their father, and a gnawing question: why had their mother abandoned them?
Over the years, the four siblings have become practiced in concealing their pain, remaining close into adulthood, and forming their own families. But long-closed wounds are reopened when a chance encounter brings James face-to-face with Rosemarie after nearly forty years. Secrets that each sibling has locked away come to light as they struggle to come to terms with their mother's reappearance, while at the same time their beloved father is progressing into dementia. Veitch's family portrait reveals the joys and sorrows, the complexity and ambiguity of family life, and poignantly probes what it means to love and what it means to leave. -- Plume
I am so grateful to Falise from the 24/8 Book Club and Plume books for providing my book club with copies of WITHOUT A BACKWARD GLANCE by Kate Veitch. When I read the description of this book, I knew it sounded like an ideal book club selection (especially for a book club made up of mothers.) And, I have to admit that the cover was very intriguing -- it definitely caught my eye and made me want to read the book!
This book deals with a very compelling (and sometimes difficult) storyline -- a mother who abandons her four children and her husband on Christmas Eve. I hesitate to admit this, but at the beginning of the novel when the mother was sharing her feelings, I could almost relate to some of what she was saying. I have to say that I would never leave my husband and children; in fact, I don't even have those thoughts -- but this book definitely made me think about what makes some people act in these extreme ways. Is there something that pushes certain people over the edge; what separates them from "normal" people, are they really that different from the rest of us?
I really enjoyed how the author allowed the reader to see into the thoughts and feelings of all the characters in the book. I felt as if I could understand each of them (notice I did not say like or even relate!) Each of the children were definitely affected in their own way by their mother's abandonment; and I found it fascinating to see how each one handled it -- especially since most of them were not healthy, constructive ways. I appreciated how this book dealt with the ultimate of family crises with a great deal of compassion and also with so much honesty.
I found myself very intrigued with this book. Despite not really liking most of the characters, I still felt sorry for them and wanted them to find some peace in their life (except for the mother, I positively hated her!) I enjoyed watching each of the characters "reconcile" with their mother and ultimately come to terms with her departure. I also liked seeing the dynamics between the children and their father as well as their interaction with each other! What was even more interesting to me was the relationships these children ended up having with their spouses and their children. It's incredible how one event (albeit a huge one) can have such long lasting effects on so many people!
I was thoroughly impressed with Ms. Veitch's writing -- it's hard to believe that she is a first time novelist! I found it very interesting that WITHOUT A BACKWARD GLANCE was published in Australia with a totally different cover (partial shot of a woman) and the title LISTEN. (I think I prefer the U.S. title, so I guess they did a good job with the U.S. marketing of this book.) Not only did I think that Ms. Veitch's told a wonderful story, but I also found that she wrote with so much honesty. I look forward to reading more from Kate Veitch in the future. If you would like to learn more about Ms. Veitch, you can read an article about her writing process as well as an interview.
As I mentioned earlier, this book would make a wonderful book club selection. It deals with so many issues that are unfortunately very common in today's society. This is a wonderful reading guide available with many insightful questions. I'm actually looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks about this book tonight at my book club!