Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Truths I Never Told You

Title:  Truths I Never Told You
Author:  Kelly Rimmer
Publication Information:  Graydon House. 2020. 352 pages.
ISBN:  1525804650 / 978-1525804656

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and the Harlequin Trade Publishing's 2020 Spring Read blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I am alone in a crowded family these days, and that's the worst feeling I've ever experienced."

Favorite Quote:  "I finally discovered that the love I have for my children is the most powerful thing on earth. It's fierce and determined and an absolute force to be reckoned with. I would do anything for them. On a good day I know that I am far from a perfect mother, but I am all they have, and all I can do is to make sure that I expend every breath trying to do my best."

Grace Walsh is a young woman in the 1950s. Young love and idealism lead to marriage against her parent's wishes.  An idealistic marriage leads to the responsibilities of adult life and not quite the partnership Grace envisions. Marriage also leads to pregnancy - multiple, back to back pregnancies. Pregnancy leads to 4 young children. Pregnancy and childbirth also leads to post-partum depression, an illness not acknowledged or given a name. Post-partum depression leads to desperate decisions. Her children believe she died in an accident.

Beth Walsh is Grace's youngest child. She and her husband have battled issues of infertility and are now the parents of baby Noah. It is 1996. Beth is a therapist and is surrounded by the love and support of her husband and her siblings. Now that she is a mother, she is completely unsure if motherhood is for her.

Maryanne is Grace's younger sister. She has always walked a path different than Grace's. She seeks to be independent and to make her own decisions at a time when that is not entirely acceptable.

Patrick Walsh - Grace's husband and Beth's father - is the man with whom the story begins. Beth's father is dying, and Beth takes on the task of cleaning out his now empty house. What she and her siblings discover is beyond anything they could have imagined. They discover a mystery of their own childhood.

Through the stories of Grace and Beth, this book tackles the serious issues of a woman's right to choose, motherhood, post-partum depression, and other topics surrounding women's rights over their bodies. It also emphasizes the stigma associated with mental illness - for a lack of acknowledgment, to a lack of understanding, and to negative labeling. At the same time, the book highlights the critical role of family and societal support in women's choices and in the treatment of mental illness. The women's' stories traverse the range of that support:

  • "Loneliness is so much worse than sadness, because loneliness, by definition, cannot be shared."
  • "This is our family's tragedy, and we each play a part in the suffering. By sharing it, we can survive it, because we subconsciously remind one another that one day soon, this will end, and we'll still be standing side by side."

What I love about the book is its compelling cover and the fact that it gives voice to the issue of post-partum depression - a very real illness often dismissed as the "baby blues." I also love that it pictures the impact of family support and the lack of that support. I do not know the science behind the idea that postpartum depression has a genetic component, but perhaps now I may research the topic.

My only hesitation about the book is that by the end, I feel like it tries too hard and in too many ways to make its point. Grace, Beth, and Maryanne and the different paths they take and the dramatic conclusions to some of their stories seem too much. The point is definitely made, but the same point would have been made without that drama. Nevertheless, the book remains a memorable story about an important issue not often written about.

Truths I Never Told You
Blog Tour

Author: Kelly Rimmer

ISBN: 9781525804601, 152580460X

On Sale Date: April 14, 2020

Author Bio:

Kelly Rimmer is the worldwide and USA TODAY bestselling author of Before I Let You Go, Me Without You, and The Secret Daughter. She lives in rural Australia with her husband, two children and fantastically naughty dogs, Sully and Basil. Her novels have been translated into more than twenty languages. Please visit her.

Author Q&A:

Q: What inspired you to write Truths I Never Told You?
A: The idea behind the story started with a curiosity about post-partum depression. I heard the statistic that one in five women develop the condition after the birth of a child and I was so shocked by it. I thought to myself—given how common this is, why don’t we talk about it?

Q: Which character do you relate to the most in Truths I Never Told You?
A: Most of us feel like victims of our circumstances at some point during our lives, at least for brief periods of time. I’ve certainly felt that way before—but writing a character like Grace, who lived in time where she had very little choice over how her life unfolded, really put that feeling into perspective for me. I loved writing the character of Beth too. To me she is loyal, loving and brave—but also ultimately humble and willing to be vulnerable. Despite that, my favorite character in this book was Maryanne—she’s fierce and determined and so courageous in her pursuit of change and knowledge, and that extends to a willingness to learn harsh lessons from life itself. Although Maryanne makes some heartbreaking decisions along the way, she always remains true to her values. A groundbreaking feminist like Maryanne represents something of a bridge between Grace’s powerlessness and the easier access Beth has to a life she can control. 

Q: What message do you hope readers take away from your story?
A: I hope that the story encourages people to talk more about how difficult early motherhood can be, and to be more aware of how new mothers in their lives might be feeling isolated or struggling.

Q: Do you plan your books in advance or let them develop as you write?
A: I’m a compulsive planner – I always know exactly where the story is going to go, before I actually start writing it. I’d never finish writing a book if I tried to wing it, and I’m so impressed by writer friends who can just fly by the seat of their pants!!

Q: Have you ever had a character take over a story, and if so, who was it and why?
A: Because I plan my books, I tend not to let my characters run away with the plot too much, but the way they engage with the action and make the plots unfold sometimes surprises me.

Q: Which one of the characters in this novel was the hardest to write and why?
A: It was very difficult to put myself into Grace’s shoes. Even writing a character with depression is challenging, but trying to immerse myself in the world of a woman who was so isolated with her struggle and so unsupported by her broader community was heartbreaking. I interviewed more than a dozen women as I was researching for Grace and Beth’s stories, and I have so much admiration for them and for all women who walk a journey with postpartum depression.

Q: What does a day in the life of Kelly Rimmer look like?
A: Every day is different, especially at the moment when I’m self isolating at home and trying to school my children too!! I always try to fit in some time outside either tending to the garden or walking the trails on our property, but beyond that, it’s generally an unpredictable mix of reading, writing, teaching and cooking or cleaning.

Q: What do you use to inspire you when you get Writer’s Block?
A: I try to have two manuscripts on the go at any one time. If I get really stuck, I just switch books. I also skip scenes if they aren’t coming easily. For me, finishing a draft is all about momentum – so if I hit a point in the story where I can’t quite keep the words flowing, I’ll just write around it and come back to it later.

Q: What has been the hardest thing about publishing? What has been the most fun?
A: I still really love the way it feels to picture a story, and the challenge of trying to translate the ideas in my mind into words on the page will always thrill me. It’s taken a while for me to learn how to balance that creative side with the more pragmatic aspects to publishing. As a writer at home tapping away at your keyboard, you’re master of the story and it’s an intoxicating power – but as an author working with a whole team of people at your publisher, you have to learn how to be flexible. I’ve slowly learned that for my books to be as good as they can be, I don’t just need to endure editorial feedback, I need to learn to relish it. When I’m immersed in the story, I just can’t see the big picture the way my editors can. The author’s name goes on the spine, but the best books are the result of the work of a whole team of people at the publishing house too. 

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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