Warning: May contain minor spoilers.
To the outside world it seemed as though David and Olivia had the perfect marriage. A successful businessman, elected to the Town Council, David was highly respected around town, and Olivia was a highly popular vet. When their little Zoe was born their family was complete. Nothing could be more perfect. But every marriage has its secrets. Only their families knew the truth about their marriage and the cracks that had started to appear. One family was in denial, the other estranged. And neither could have foreseen what was to come. Or could they?
Now David is dead and Olivia is struggling to come to terms with the tragedy which has changed her life forever. Housebound for weeks, she begins to try and take back her life. As she ventures out of the house on her own for the first time since that fateful day, Olivia begins to learn the truth of how the towns folk feel about what happened. Half are sympathetic, the other half judgmental. Was Olivia really to blame for David’s death? Her mother in law Ivy seems to think so. And, in truth, so does Olivia.
Supported by her family, her friends and her therapist, Olivia has to move past her grief; to learn to accept the past if she is to stand a chance of a future. But to do so means accepting the most horrible truth of all.
‘A Mother’s Confession’ is a heart breaking story of a survivor of domestic abuse, Olivia, and her mother in law, Ivy; two women who saw very different sides of the man who connected them – David Gillespie.
It can be a hard story to read at times as Olivia’s story is so emotionally charged, and the subject matter may be difficult for anyone who has been affected by domestic abuse in the past. That said, despite reference to the injuries Olivia suffered, there is nothing gratuitous about the story, no elaboration of the details just for effect. The injuries are documented with an almost clinical detachment at times, which reflects Olivia’s journey within the story as she struggles to discuss the subject honestly with her therapist.
For me, Olivia was totally believable and so well developed as a character. Her story rang true to everything you see and hear about domestic abuse; the manipulation, the obsession and possessive nature of the abuser. The guilt of the victim that it is their fault that they weren’t stronger. But Olivia is a strong woman in an almost impossible situation. Isolated from friends and family, every aspect of her life controlled by David, so her acceptance of this is hard fought for. The division in the town over whether she is a victim or not is so very typical of people who do not understand the nature of an abusive relationship. And the way in which she struggles with guilt over David’s death is so real. Kelly Rimmer has written this aspect of the book so perfectly, you can almost live Olivia’s pain with her.
And Ivy. Urgh, Ivy. No parent wants to think badly of their child but Ivy is a woman so obsessed with David that she cannot see any harm in how he acts. She has encouraged his possessive nature, nurtured his spirit in which only what he thinks and feels is right and stoked the embers of his jealousy until it becomes a raging fire. Despite warning signs, she turns the other cheek and will not admit to anyone, even herself, that her son was ever wrong. Her husband Wyatt is almost archaic in his thinking, that what happens in a family home is between man and wife and that his son knows how to manage his marriage. Between them they are complicit in what happens, and unless you count her blind and unwavering love for her son, I can see no redeeming qualities for Ivy at all. In fact, her obsession with David almost borders on the incestuous. I can see why Kelly Rimmer struggled to write her but she has done a brilliant job in creating someone so awful and still keeping the reader engaged.
Told through the points of view of both Olivia and Ivy, as a reader you get to experience events after the tragedy with Olivia as she fights to get her life back on track, and, through Ivy’s eyes, David’s journey from demanding child to unforgiving husband. You almost have two unreliable narrators as Olivia is clearly still in shock from what has happened and Ivy is blind to the truth, and yet both talk honestly about who David was, one in terms of blind acceptance, the other in fear and pain. The scenes between Olivia and her therapist rang so true. In fact everything about this whole story felt authentic, both the good and the bad.
Thoroughly honest and sometimes almost brutally so, Kelly Rimmer has created such an emotional journey for the reader that you cannot help but be moved by Olivia’s story. But oh … That ending. It brought a tear (or more accurately streams of tears) to my eye at a most inopportune moment and it’s making me sad now. But there is a real sense of hope at the end and it is told in such a beautiful way that makes the book almost impossible to put down.
And hey. That’s the sign of good writing. Very few things make me blub so that’s now Angela Marsons and Kelly Rimmer – two for two for Bookouture. If you can handle a bit of leaking, or better still, can get sponsorship from Kleenex, absolutely give this book a go. You will not regret it.
A well earned, emotionally raw, tear stained and heart breaking 5 stars.
I reviewed an advance copy of ‘A Mother’s Confession’ provided by NetGalley and Bookouture.
*** Note to self. Stop reading emotionally volatile books in public – crying on planes and in service stations … You keep embarrassing yourself. Dang Bookouture and their flipping fab writers.