Sometimes a lie can split your life in two. There is “before”, and there is “after”. Try as you might – you can never go back.
When Lydia was a teenager, she made a decision that ruined her family’s life. They’ve spent the last thirty years living with the consequences and doing their best to pretend it never happened.
Lydia’s husband, the gorgeous and reliable Mark, and her two teenage children know nothing about that summer back in 1982. And that’s the way Lydia wants it to stay. The opportunity to come clean is long gone and now it’s not the lie that matters, it’s the betrayal of hiding the truth for so long.
When someone from the past turns up as a parent at the school gates, Lydia feels the life she has worked so hard to build slipping through her fingers. The more desperate she becomes to safeguard her family, the more erratic her behaviour becomes. But when the happiness of her own teenage son, Jamie, hangs in the balance, Lydia is forced to make some impossible decisions. Can she protect him and still keep her own secret – and if she doesn’t, will her marriage and family survive?
Kerry Fisher is one of my very favourite companions at book parties, but I’ve always been a little shame-faced that I’ve never read one of her books. I did buy them though, Kerry, honestly I did – The School Gate Survival Guide and The Island Escape are both there on my kindle! But Kerry’s first book with Bookouture – After The Lie – is published today, and there was absolutely no way I was going to miss that. And I’m very pleased to report that, in addition to being an accomplished wine pourer and sparkling conversationalist, she’s also a darned fine writer. This book absolutely blew me away – if it’s not one of my Books of the Year, no-one will be more amazed than me.
Narrated by Lydia – wife, mother, successful event planner, reluctant rugby club fundraiser – this book takes you straight into the heart of her family. Her husband is Mark – a kitchen fitter who takes pride in his work but maybe isn’t as pushy as he could be in the selling, laid back peacemaker at home, steady, gentle and loving. The teens are the most “real” individuals of that age I’ve come across in a long time – thirteen year old Izzy is full of the contradictions common at that age, sassy and smart-mouthed, but likes to be tucked into bed at night, sixteen year old Jamie typically uncommunicative, experimenting with how far he can bend the boundaries of parental control.
The other significant family member of the immediate family is Mabel, the family dog, who sidesteps (at speed) every futile attempt at control – and is the source of many of the laugh-out-loud moments in the book. (Is there an award for dogs in books I wonder? If so, Mabel should run away with it…) Then there’s Lydia’s lovely and slightly fragile father and – deep breath – her mother. Lydia’s mother Dorothy is a magnificent creation – in the right at all times (over the most minor things as well as the major), outspoken, loud, non-PC, difficult, infuriating and totally blinkered about the effect she has on others.
Lydia’s voice is quite wonderful – she switches from funny to furious, through sad, happy, frightened and confused, in such a recognisable way that you feel you know her. Actually, you really do know her – she has that great “everywoman” quality that at some point will most definitely have you nodding and saying “that could be me”.
The style of the writing only adds to that – conversational with shared thoughts and observations, simply wonderful. You do want to take Lydia to one side at times though, say “was that really a good idea?” – and you do at times want to look away because of the car crash you can see coming way before she can. The author makes you love her and care for her, to want everything to work out – and gaining that investment in a character with so many flaws (but so many you can identify with) is very clever writing.
And just another quick tribute to the quality of the writing, because another aspect I really loved was all the little detail – from the stolen sausage rolls to the model of the Pope-mobile, the minutiae of the excruciating clothes shopping trips to the wiggled eyebrows in married communication, the few lines about someone’s appearance that enable you to picture them absolutely clearly.
The story itself is excellent – the massive secret, concealed for so many years – the question mark over whether earlier decisions were right or wrong, whether things should have been handled differently to avoid a later catastrophe. And then there are all the other ripples that make things so much more difficult than they need to be, complication piling on complication – and the really clever mirroring of early events in the present day. This is such a difficult book to review, because it needs to be experienced and discovered – the story is absolutely edge-of-the-seat gripping stuff, deceptively powerful, and I read it in one fantastic sitting because I just couldn’t put it down.
It’s so much more than a great story though – it’s a book you really feel. It’s not very often when reading a book that you find yourself laughing, crying snotty tears, feeling sick with tension, aching inside but keep turning the pages for more. Yes, honestly, it really is that good.
My thanks to netgalley and Bookouture for my advance reading e-copy.
Born in Peterborough, Kerry Fisher studied French and Italian at Bath University, followed by several years working as an English teacher in Corsica and Spain before topping the dizzying heights of holiday rep and grape picker in Tuscany. She eventually succumbed to ‘getting a proper job’ and returned to England to study Periodical Journalism at City University. After two years working in the features department at Essentials magazine in London, love carried her off to the wilds of the West Pennine moors near Bolton.
She now lives in Surrey with her husband (of whisking off to Bolton fame), two teenagers and a very naughty lab/schnauzer called Poppy. Kerry can often be seen trailing across the Surrey Hills whistling and waving pieces of chicken while the dog practises her ‘talk to the tail’. In her third book, After The Lie, Kerry shamelessly exploits every embarrassing dog misdemeanour to create her fictional hound, Mabel.
Read more of her thoughts on life on her website or follow her on Twitter and her Facebook author page.