Wednesday 9 September 2015

Reviewed: Letting You Go by Anouska Knight

Letting You Go will be published by Mira on September 10, 2015.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

I’ve just spent the best weekend with Letting You Go, my very first Anouska Knight novel, and I’m not quite sure I’m okay with leaving it behind just yet! Even after the most moving, perfect of endings. I was taken in completely by the stunning story here. Letting You Go wastes no time in setting the scene as we’re taken back to 2004 and the events leading up to the death of Dillon – son to Ted and Blythe, little brother to Alex and Jem. September 12, 2004 was a tragic day that the Foster family have never allowed themselves to recover from. There’s all sorts of blame that has been thrown around, guilt that has been all-consuming and relationships shattered ever since that horrible moment which saw Dillon die. I have to point out that although Anouska introduces us instantly to the pivotal moment in the Foster family’s lives, Letting You Go still had that slowburning feel to it. It wasn’t a book I could connect with straight away and for a chapter or two, I wasn’t so sure this was going to be the book for me but then everything changed and there was no way I could be separated from it.

The moment this book changed for me was the moment that Alex gets the phone call from her sister to tell her that their mum has had a suspected stroke. Alex needs to go home. Alex knows it’s something she needs to do – she can’t neglect her mum when she needs her the most – but she’s anxious and worried about how things will work out. Her relationship with her dad has suffered ever since Dillon died – she doesn’t believe he has or ever will forgive her for the death of his son, and she doesn’t blame him. She blames herself too, blames herself for being too distracted by Finn, the guy from her past who she also knows she won’t be able to avoid once she goes back home. There’s so many questions and intrigue over Alex’s journey home and I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for Alex and found myself hoping things wouldn’t be as painful as she expected.

I think my favourite part of this novel was all the different relationships between the characters. Anouska has done such a brilliant job at creating multi-layered, realistic characters who you can care about without necessarily having straight-forward opinions of them. No characters were perfect or without flaws – each one was very human and the depth to them made this story come to life which in turn had me connecting with this book on a more emotional level and at times the story moved me a lot. There was such a heart-breaking, touching exploration of a family built on love but love which has been disguised in the form of lies, secrets, grief and a real lack of communication. Alex is our main character here but I was pleasantly surprised that this book revolved around a lot more than just her feelings – I especially enjoyed that we got to really learn a lot about her sister too because she also wasn’t one without a secret or two.

Each relationship in this book was told beautifully. I can’t pick a favourite because I truly enjoyed them all. The relationship between Alex and her sister Jem is probably the most predominant one as they grow closer and support each other through the sadness of their broken family. They both also had a lot to learn about each other and the things they missed out on throughout the time they didn’t see each other. Although Jem’s secret was made easy for the reader to work out, I was interested to see whether anyone in the book would work it out or if Jem would come forward with it – and I really wasn’t sure how anybody would react. Another more difficult and emotional relationship was that of Alex and her father, Ted. It was saddening how fragile their relationship had become but they were both torn apart by pain so much on the inside, they didn’t know how to express themselves on the outside and I was really hoping they’d find a way to repair things a little because it felt like, to me, what they both needed more than anything was the bond between them to grow and make them both a little stronger. One of my favourite characters in this book was Finn, who came across as really open and genuine. He was kind-hearted but also not one to really mince his words – I liked how he spoke his mind. We learn a little about his feelings from the past for Alex, and how his life was affected once she left. Though I loved reading the romantic element to this book, I was glad that it was well balanced and didn’t overtake the main theme of the novel.

There’s real beauty to the story and the writing of Letting You Go as everything was told intricately and eloquently. The expression of emotion was impactful and I felt like I was on the same emotional rollercoaster as the characters in the book. Reading about mums battling ill health is something I struggle with these days but I felt like in this book, Blythe played such an understated but important role. She was the only person who could keep the family together and I found it so poignant that through her time in hospital, her main priority was always focusing on trying to get her family to pull together without needing her to communicate for them. Anouska appears to have put so much heart and soul into this story which made it an irresistible read for me. As the characters confronted their pasts, I was rooting for them and encouraging them along the way. This story is laced with secrets and twists – some expected and others not so much – but regardless, each one was delivered with style and substance. Letting You Go was a stunning and extremely fulfilling novel.

A moving exploration of a fragile family which had me rooting for a happy ending

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