Short listed for the best First Book Award of the Africa Region Commonwealth Writer's Prize, Isla Morley's debut novel plays into one of our largest fears: what happens when a child is killed.
Abbe Deighton has lost her bearings.
Once a child of South Africa and now settled in Hawaii married to a minister, she is chafing against the expectations of her life, her husband's congregation, her marriage and the constant demands of motherhood.
But in an instant, beginning with the skid of tyres, Abbe's life is transformed when her three-year-old daughter is killed, triggering a seismic grief that cuts a swathe through the landscape of her life. Clawing its way through the strata of grief comes the memory of another tragedy, one that has been tucked away for twenty years. If Abbe is to find a way through blame and guilt and find redemption she must confront the last summer of her youth.
It is a journey that will take her back to the continent of her childhood bringing her face-to-face with her past, to the old witchdoctor's hut where curses were cast, secrets kept and a crime concealed. Abbe will have to make the harshest of choices, choices which blur the lines of life and death, responsibility and forgiveness, murder and self-defence, in order to find her true homeland.
In her poignant first novel, former South African magazine editor Morley explores a mother's grief. Abbe Deighton, part-time journalist and full-time wife and mother, finds herself living in Hawaii with her preacher husband, Greg, and precocious three-year-old daughter, Cleo, thousands of miles from her South African birthplace. Her flight from an abusive father and complicit mother is not accidental her poet brother also fled to America and when Cleo is killed in a car accident, Abbe re-examines the choices that have brought her so far from home. She and her husband become estranged as he turns to God and forgives the man who killed their daughter while Abbe descends into self-pity and anger at the unfairness of life. Their marriage suffers and Greg loses his job, forcing Abbe to turn homeward for financial help. Upon returning to South Africa, she confronts the ghosts of her family's past and the reality of her homeland's future. Morley convincingly depicts a grief-stricken woman without resorting to clich s, and though she telegraphs the resolution of Abbe's plight early on, the storytelling, line by line, is rather beautiful.