Deborah Stone explores the impact of trauma and hidden identities within the family unit, and considers the devastating effects of the lies and deceit which result when a family is determined to avoid facing the truth.
Sasha is just about managing to hold her life together. She is raising her teenage son Zac, coping with an absent husband and caring for her ageing, temperamental and alcoholic mother, as well as holding down her own job. But when Zac begins to suspect that he has a secret sibling, Sasha realises that she must relive the events of a devastating night which she has done her best to forget for the past nineteen years.
‘In this novel, I wanted to explore how traumatic events in ordinary people lives, left unresolved, can have a catastrophic effect on families. Personal trauma and tragedy is so often ignored, rather than properly addressed and resolved. This can lead to dishonesty; individuals keep dark secrets and tell lies, even to the people they love the most, which can damage relationships, sometimes irreparably,’ explains Deborah of her debut novel. ‘That’s why I chose to tell this story from three perspectives; that of the father from beyond the grave, the mother from beneath her fog of dementia and the daughter, who struggles to understand her loveless relationship with her mother and cope with a terrible trauma of her own.’
Sasha’s mother, Annie, is old and finds it difficult to distinguish between past and present and between truth and lies. As Annie sinks deeper back into her past, she revisits the key events in her life which have shaped her emotionally. Through it all, she remains convinced that her dead husband Joe is watching and waiting for her. But there’s one thing she never told him, and as painful as it is for her to admit the truth, Annie is determined to go to Joe with a guilt-free conscience.
As the plot unfurls, traumas are revealed and lies uncovered, revealing long-buried secrets which are at the root of Annie and Sasha’s fractious relationship.
The novel spans several decades, telling the history of the Stein family from the turn of the twentieth century to the present day. Speaking of her inspiration for her novel, Deborah says; ‘My own mother was evacuated at the age of five during World War Two and my father was a young man working as an ARP warden. This novel is purely fictitious, but I wanted to explore the traumas that many ordinary people of the war generation suffered, experiences which would be quite unimaginable to many of us today and then to contrast them with the issues we all face in the modern day.’
Deborah Stone read English Literature at Durham University. She lives in Hampstead Garden Suburb with her husband, two sons and her dog.