Friday, July 12, 2013

I Came to Say Goodbye

I Came to Say Goodbye, Caroline Overington

A friend gave me this, having read my last Overington review.

I wonder if you read books like my friend does? She hated this one, because when she reads a book about horrible family relationships, she then imagines the same in her own relationships. Do you do that? If you are the same, you might want to steer clear of Overington books too - or you may well end up hating various members of your family also!

Having given clear warning, I really liked the book. Overington has an uncanny way of imagining life for someone from a balanced and honest perspective. She does not reduce people to cliches. She finds a depth and a reality to all her characters.

At the beginning of the book, a woman enters a children’s hospital, walks into the babies ward, picks up a child, takes it outside to her car and drives away. The story does not end there and it begins long before then.

The rest of the novel is written in the format of letters. Two members of a family (a father Med and his daughter Kat) are writing to a Family Court Judge to explain the life and behaviour of their other daughter/sister, Donna-Faye.  It is a sad account of the downward spiral of a woman’s life, affected both by circumstances and bad influences, yet also by poor choices.  It details how a few mistakes can change someone’s life forever and how mental illness can destroy a family.

It is clear from Overington’s writing and her years in journalism that she has a real heart for those for whom life is not easy.  She has a lot to say about government child protective services and their systems.  She has an insight into the lives of refugees.  She cares about families and children. All of her writing reads very naturally to Australians, particularly those from NSW. I knew all of the places she wrote about, which gave the book even more credence. While she stresses that her books are entirely fiction, there is a startling reality to them all. You finish a book and keep thinking about it, knowing that the circumstances described could happen, and in some cases do happen.

Just like Ghost Child, this is a book that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.

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