It’s an immense pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of Beyond the Margin by Jo Jackson. Published in October 2019 by Apedale Press, the book is now available for kindle and in paperback via Amazon in the UK and US. The paperback can also be purchased via the author’s website. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the author for my reading e-copy.
Jo Jackson’s no stranger to Being Anne – and not only because I might just be responsible for adding a few books to her reading list. Back in August 2017, she joined me to tell the moving story behind her book Too Loud a Silence (you’ll find that feature again here). In December 2017, I read and reviewed the book – and experienced Jo’s wonderful descriptive powers as she shared her love for Egypt, her fears for its present and future, and the deeply moving story. You can read my review again here – and I’m particularly delighted that the giveaway you’ll find below is for signed copies of both Jo’s books.
I will admit though, that although I’d previously enjoyed Jo’s writing so much, I did wobble a little over reading her latest for this tour. It’s impossible to love every book you read, and I know I’m going to be a little uncomfortable as soon as I see mention of drug addiction, abandonment or “the edge of society”: forgive me for being a lightweight, but I do tend towards sunshine and rainbows a little more these days. But then I remembered how much I’d enjoyed my last experience of Jo’s writing, and decided I’d take a chance. And I’ll be eternally grateful that I did – this book was quite wonderful.
Is living on the edge of society a choice? Or is choice a luxury of the fortunate?
Joe, fighting drug addiction, runs until the sea halts his progress. His is a faltering search for meaningful relationships.
‘Let luck be a friend’, Nuala is told but it had never felt that way. Abandoned at five years old survival means learning not to care. Her only hope is to take control of her own destiny.
The intertwining of their lives makes a compelling story of darkness and light, trauma, loss and second chances.
At first, I wondered if the profound impact that this book had on me was because it was so very different from the books I usually choose to read. But no – its impact was all down to the fact that it’s a stunning piece of writing. It explores the lives of two people, and their stories and viewpoints alternate.
Young Nuala, after the death of her drug addict mother and her abandonment by her father, moves through the care system, searching for a place where she can belong: its failings are many, and the repeatedly dashed hopes of a vulnerable child are incredibly difficult to read. I say “read”, but this is a book that portrays the full depth of her experience with exceptional authenticity, that makes you cry with frustration at the failings of the system as she moves into adulthood, severely damaged by the twists and turns of her life.
Her father Joe runs away, haunted by loss and guilt, and finds himself on the edge of civilisation as he tries to heal himself. He experiences the exceptional kindness of strangers, who are surviving through farming the wilderness: and he begins to remake his life, drawing on reserves of kindness and humanity his difficult life had failed to eradicate.
The writing is simply wonderful – every word carefully chosen, the natural world vividly described and detailed, atmospheric and full of striking images, reflecting the emotional turmoil of the characters. Every shared thought and feeling, as life throws its slings and arrows, is never anything but wholly real, conveyed with exceptional insight and a sensitivity that is deeply affecting.
And while it’s difficult to look away from Nuala and Joe, the supporting characters are also superbly drawn – the elderly couple who provide Joe’s lifeline to emotional recovery while struggling with their own tragic loss, the community who pull together, the relationship that gives him hope for the future, the hard-pressed social workers who fail to provide the service they should, the acts of kindness that enrich Nuala’s sad life for those fleeting moments.
And I really loved the story’s construction – the intriguing prologue that I’d almost forgotten (and re-read at the end), the uplifting and unexpected ending, the way it left me with real hope for the future. Without question, this will be one of my books of the year.
With thanks to Jo and Rachel, I’m delighted offer the chance to win signed copies of both Beyond the Margin and Too Loud a Silence (UK only). Here’s the Rafflecopter for entry:
Terms and Conditions UK entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the author
Jo Jackson reads books and writes them too. Having worked with some of the most vulnerable people in society she has a unique voice apparent in her second novel Beyond the Margin.
She was a nurse, midwife and family psychotherapist and now lives in rural Shropshire with her husband. She loves travelling and walking as well as gardening, philosophy and art.
Her first novel Too Loud a Silence is set in Egypt where Jo lived for a few years with her husband and three children. Events there were the inspiration for her book which she describes as ‘a story she had to write’.