Before I Let You Go…
About the Book:
Your sister needs you. But her child needs you more…
A moving page-turner with a heart-pounding dilemma: Your sister or her baby. Who do you choose?
As children, Lexie and Annie were incredibly close. Bonded by the death of their beloved father, they weathered the storms of life together.
As adults, Lexie and Annie could not be more different. Lexie is a successful doctor and happily engaged. Annie is an addict – a thief, a liar and unable to remain clean.
What do you do when your sister, an addict, tells you she’s pregnant and needs your help?
BEFORE I LET YOU GO is the stunning new novel from Kelly Rimmer, internationally bestselling Australian author of THE SECRET DAUGHTER, ME WITHOUT YOU, WHEN I LOST YOU and A MOTHER’S CONFESSION.
Before I Let You Go is a novel that has left me feeling full of so many swirling emotions. I tend not to make comparisons between authors and books, but the moral questions posed within Before I Let You Go are reminiscent of issues and situations raised within novels written by Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain, two authors I admire greatly. What these authors have in common is their drive to challenge the way we see things by widening the view; when you examine a situation fully informed, your view will always differ from that formed by a narrow perspective. For some, this can be an uncomfortable process, but for me, that challenge to my moral compass via worthy debate is something I don’t usually turn away from.
Kelly Rimmer has shot right to the top of my list of most respected authors. She writes with a daring honesty, tackling issues and posing scenarios without holding back. In Before I Let You Go, we meet Annie, a homeless pregnant heroin addict, and Lexie, a respected GP engaged to a respected surgeon living in a respectable upper class neighbourhood. Two women who are as different as can be, yet who are bonded by sisterhood and a co-dependency that stretches back further than Annie’s addiction.
My mind was constantly changing throughout this novel, and my emotions followed an equally up and down path.
“I doubt Annie knows what ‘NAS’ stands for, but I know: neonatal abstinence syndrome. It’s a cruel start to life – all of the physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal, crammed and compressed into a tiny newborn’s body.
…those little babies shake and scream for hours on end, until they’d sweated through their clothing and vomited up every drop of milk in their stomachs.
…there’s nothing worse in the world than watching a brand-new baby writhe in an agony that could have been avoided.”
This passage appears very early on in the novel so the stage of what is to come is set immediately. As readers, we are pushed to have a negative reaction to Annie from the beginning, to sympathise with Lexie, to feel our heart break over what this innocent premature baby is going to endure. And I did feel that way, but this novel isn’t about liking Lexie and despising Annie. It’s about understanding that as a society, we are missing the mark when it comes to how we’re handling addiction. We are criminalising addiction and punishing addicts for a compulsion they have no control over. Anyone who thinks an addict chooses to be an addict has clearly never met one, never loved one, or never lost one. By painting Annie into the most desperate corner an addict could find themselves, Kelly Rimmer challenges us to dig deep and look further, beyond our disgust and contempt, so that we might consider, for even just a few moments, the righteousness of laws that prevent people from seeking help. Punishment, in place of rehabilitation, is the issue in question here, not whether we condone addiction or not.
What happened to Annie is tragic. I have very strong feelings about the danger of religious cults and yet, I still couldn’t bring myself to lay all of the blame for Annie’s demise at her mother’s feet. Here’s that ‘viewing the situation fully’ notion that I was talking about earlier. If you take only one thing away from this novel, let it be that no situation is ever as straightforward as it may at first seem.
I am known as a bit of a ‘reading weeper’, shedding a tear at the drop of a hat. But I am rarely so overcome by emotion that I sob, yet with Before I Let You Go, I was powerless, completely undone. Because it’s just so real and so relevant to the society we live in today.
“In the last few years I’ve heard all sorts of politicians talking about compassion for people with addiction, but you know what I’ve never heard? No one ever talks about compassion for women who are pregnant and have addictions. Maybe we’re progressing to the point that we realise that a raging addiction isn’t exactly a lifestyle choice, but we’re worlds away from applying that same logic to women who happen to be pregnant. We want our mommas to be perfect, and when they stumble and fall, we punish them instead of offer a helping hand, and then we call it deterrence.”
Before I Let You Go may be set in the US, but don’t think for a minute this minimises the relevance of the story. I’m not too sure what the law in Australia is regarding pregnant addicts, but I’m fairly certain that public attitudes are akin to those in the US. I admire Kelly for diving into the deep end with this novel and thank her for her bravery. Issues aside, the relationship between sisters that is depicted within this novel is so beautifully moving and utterly authentic. I am an older sister myself, so much of the emotional attachment between Lexie and Annie that was explored resonated with me. Before I Let You Go is a novel that is sure to stay with me, a truly brilliant story that I can’t recommend highly enough.
Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of Before I Let You Go for review.
About the Author:
Kelly Rimmer has sold over 600,000 digital copies of her previous four novels: ME WITHOUT YOU, THE SECRET DAUGHTER, WHEN I LOST YOU and A MOTHER’S CONFESSION. BEFORE I LET YOU GO is Kelly’s first novel with Hachette Australia and the first time she’ll be published in print in ANZ. Kelly lives in rural NSW with her husband, two children and fantastically naughty dogs, Sully and Basil. Her novels have been translated into more than 20 languages.