Do you listen to your mother? Even after she’s dead? Anna Hardaker is following you … This seemingly innocent Tweet fills Jamie Hardaker with confusion and fear. After all, his mother Anna has been dead for nearly three weeks. What follows is an orchestrated Twitter campaign to lead those Anna loved, and didn’t love so much, to the truth behind her “accidental” death.
I received a copy of the book from the author in return for an honest review.
Claustrophobic and toxic, a dark story about a fractured family. The story focuses on events after Anna’s accidental death. Sinister tweets cast doubt, on the circumstances surrounding Anna’s accident. There are also historical flashbacks of incidents within the family, before Anna’s demise. The story is written from Jamie’s point of view, in the first person. This narrows the story’s perspective but gives it the depth of emotion and immediacy.
A fusion of family drama and psychological suspense, where Jamie is an unreliable protagonist. He feels isolated by his mother’s death, full of anger and grief. The cast of realistically flawed characters, all have their agendas. Jamie’s father is particularly objectionable.
The plot twists, the sinister twitter campaign escalates and Jamie’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic. He talks to his mother, even thinks he sees her. A symptom of grief? Or something more disturbing?
Being inside Jamie’s mind is exhausting. The final twists, I guessed, but they are believable. They give the story a dark and tragic end.
An immersive domestic thriller that has disturbing realism.
Maria Frankland’s life began at 40 when she escaped an unhappy marriage and began making a living from her own writing and becoming a teacher of creative writing.
The rich tapestry of life with all its turbulent times has enabled her to pour experience, angst and lessons learned into the writing of her novels and poetry.
She recognises that the darkest places can exist within family relationships and this is reflected in the domestic thrillers she writes.
She is a ‘born ‘n’ bred’ Yorkshire woman, a mother of two and has recently found her own ‘happy ever after’ after marrying again.
Still in her forties, she is now going to dedicate the rest of her working life to writing books and inspiring other writers to also achieve their dreams too!
Minnie Price married late in life. Now she is widowed. And starving. No one suspects this respectable church-goer can barely keep body and soul together. Why would they, while she resides in the magnificent home she shared with Peter? Her friends and neighbours are oblivious to her plight and her adult stepchildren have their own reasons to make things worse rather than better. But she is thrown a lifeline when an associate of her late husband arrives with news of an investment about which her step-children know nothing. Can she release the funds before she finds herself homeless and destitute?
Fans of ‘The Hoarder’s Widow’ will enjoy this sequel, but it reads equally well as a standalone.
I recently read Helen Ryan’s book A Contagion of Loss. It is an excellent book and I heartily recommend it but it wasn’t an easy book to read. It’s about how what you do affects me, and how far, then, I should be responsible for you. It’s about how one person’s tragedy seeps out, like a stain, tainting others.
It got me thinking about fiction and its purpose. Of course, we read to escape. We love adventure and romance, travel to different universes and times. We enjoy being intrigued by mysteries. Personally, I don’t read horror or graphic crime novels but I can understand the adrenalin rush for those who do, and, I suppose, after the gore and carnage, doesn’t everyday life feel a whole lot better? Historical novels and science fiction increase our understanding of what has been in the past or could be in the future. We read to be informed, to have our horizons broadened.
Through books, we experience so much more than we ever could in real life. We can live hundreds of lives. But I think that most of all, we read to understand ourselves and each other, and the world we live in. So it’s entirely right that fiction should sometimes deal with the harsher things in life, the uncomfortable truths.
My Widows series is about women whose husbands have died and so, not unreasonably, they include death and grief. They deal with the difficult aftermath of bereavement; loneliness, financial difficulties, anger and the terrible vulnerability that swamps in. In The Hoarder’s Widow Maisie is left to deal with her late husband’s hoard of broken furniture, moth-eaten rugs and horrible pictures. For the first third of the novel she is immured in her home, sorting through dross. It was hard to write but hoarding is a very real issue for some people and how could I understand it myself, or explain it to others, if I didn’t explore it fully? Maisie’s marriage was difficult and Clifford’s addiction impacted his children. These matters, too, are legitimate subjects for fiction, but not easy ones.
In The Widow’s Mite, Minnie’s happy marriage to her husband Peter is cut tragically short after only six years. Unlike Maisie, who is left with a legacy which is unwieldy and burdensome, Minnie is left with literally nothing. The wording of Peter’s Will means that she is destitute. My researches tell me that this is not uncommon.
These are hard things; sad, uncomfortable truths. You might think they are bleak and depressing. I’d say they are thought-provoking and sobering. But I’d argue that they are appropriate subjects for fiction. Why? For several reasons. Firstly, as I mentioned above, exploring them through the safe medium of fiction gives us the opportunity to experience them without actually suffering from them. And, like the readers of horror, we have the privilege of being able to look away of it gets too much. We gain new understanding. Personally, I have much more sympathy for those hoarders we see on TV, not to mention their families. I know, now, that it’s an illness. After writing The Widow’s Mite I am more awake to just how prevalent poverty is in this so-called civilised, modern, first-world I live in. Thank goodness, I have never been widowed, but I believe I understand, just a little, what that feels like.
Last, of all, these are stories, not documentaries, and so they have hopeful endings. There is light, there is resolution. Maisie and Minnie both find solace in a group of women friends. Their banter, their sozzled nights out and antics during their trips away bring balance and relief. Maisie does manage to disassemble Clifford’s hoard. Her family, though affected by the shadow of their father’s addiction, moves forward to brighter times. Minnie is not left to starve and she finds in herself a deep well of compassion for those who, like her, have hit hard times. Both women find that with the help of friends, the support of family and with their own innate emotional strength and natural resilience, their grief gradually fades. For Maisie, there is even the possibility of new love, which I hope to develop in the future.
I write the kind of books I like to read. My hope is that I’m also writing the books you like to read. Please let me know by commenting on Jane’s blog site, or by reaching out to me via email. You can do this via my website.
Thank you to Jane for hosting me today.
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil. She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.
She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.
She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters, two grandsons and two cockapoos but just one husband – Tim. They live in Cumbria, NW England.