Believing she is a bad mother, Beth does not address her postpartum depression. After she and her siblings move their father into a care facility due to his deepening dementia, she volunteers to clean out their family home. Behind the padlocked door to their childhood playroom, Beth discovers her father’s mysterious paintings that seem to correspond to notes left by her mother, unlocking a family secret that may provide a connection with her mother and become her saving grace. Rimmer presents a complex family dynamic to which many could relate, and then explodes it with a secret so horrifying, it remained hidden for decades. Anyone who has discovered their family secret will definitely identify with the feelings of betrayal and questioning their identity. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from the publisher Graydon House through NetGalley.
September 14, 1957
I am alone in a crowded family these days, and that’s the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced. Until these past few years, I had no idea that loneliness is worse than sadness. I’ve come to realize that’s because loneliness, by its very definition, cannot be shared.
Tonight there are four other souls in this house, but I am unreachably far from any of them, even as I’m far too close to guarantee their safety. Patrick said he’d be home by nine tonight, and I clung on to that promise all day.
He’ll be home at nine, I tell myself. You won’t do anything crazy if Patrick is here, so just hold on until nine.
I should have known better than to rely on that man by now. It’s 11:55 p.m., and I have no idea where he is.
Beth will be wanting a feed soon and I’m just so tired, I’m already bracing myself—as if the sound of her cry will be the thing that undoes me, instead of something I should be used to after four children. I feel the fear of that cry in my very bones—a kind of whole-body tension I can’t quite make sense of. When was the last time I had more than a few hours’ sleep? Twenty-four hours a day I am fixated on the terror that I will snap and hurt someone: Tim, Ruth, Jeremy, Beth…or myself. I am a threat to my children’s safety, but at the same time, their only protection from that very same threat.
I have learned a hard lesson these past few years; the more difficult life is, the louder your feelings become. On an ordinary day, I trust facts more than feelings, but when the world feels like it’s ending, it’s hard to distinguish where my thoughts are even coming from. Is this fear grounded in reality, or is my mind playing tricks on me again? There’s no way for me to be sure. Even the line between imagination and reality has worn down and it’s now too thin to delineate.
Sometimes I think I will walk away before something bad happens, as if removing myself from the equation would keep them all safe. But then Tim will skin his knee and come running to me, as if a simple hug could take all the world’s pain away. Or Jeremy will plant one of those sloppy kisses on my cheek, and I am reminded that for better or worse, I am his world. Ruth will slip my handbag over her shoulder as she follows me around the house, trying to walk in my footsteps, because to her, I seem like someone worth imitating. Or Beth will look up at me with that gummy grin when I try to feed her, and my heart contracts with a love that really does know no bounds.
Those moments remind me that everything changes, and that this cloud has come and gone twice now, so if I just hang on, it will pass again. I don’t feel hope yet, but I should know hope, because I’ve walked this path before and even when the mountains and valleys seemed insurmountable, I survived them.
I’m constantly trying to talk myself around to calm, and sometimes, for brief and beautiful moments, I do. But the hard, cold truth is that every time the night comes, it seems blacker than it did before.
Tonight I’m teetering on the edge of something horrific.
Tonight the sound of my baby’s cry might just be the thing that breaks me altogether.
I’m scared of so many things these days, but most of all now, I fear myself.
Excerpted from Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer, Copyright © 2020 by Lantana Management Pty Ltd. Published by Graydon House Books.