Helen Grant is a mystery to her daughter. An extrovert with few friends who has sought intimacy in the wrong places; a twice-divorced mother-of-two now living alone surrounded by her memories, Helen (known to her acquaintances as 'Hen') has always haunted Bridget.
Now, Bridget is an academic in her forties. She sees Helen once a year, and considers the problem to be contained. As she looks back on their tumultuous relationship - the performances and small deceptions - she tries to reckon with the cruelties inflicted on both sides. But when Helen makes it clear that she wants more, it seems an old struggle will have to be replayed.
From the prize-winning author of First Love, My Phantoms is a bold, heart-stopping portrayal of a failed familial bond, which brings humour, subtlety and new life to the difficult terrain of mothers and daughters.
Riley (First Love) returns with an affecting story about the complicated relationship between a daughter and her two parents. Bridget, the 40-something narrator, cut off contact with her father when she was 26 and limits her interactions with her mother, who left her father when she was two. Still, memories of both parents their self-involvement and staggering immaturity come back to her vividly. The narrative begins with scenes of Bridget's father, who, on court-ordered visitations when Bridget was 10, regales her and her older sister with dubious tales of accomplishment, such as acing job interviews by putting his feet on the desk of his potential employer. ("It is strange when somebody lying, but somehow you're on the spot," Bridget reflects.) The recollections shift to a series of encounters with her mother, Hen, who, after another divorce, has settled into a kind of frenzied gadabout, keeping herself busy with volunteer work and "daft crushes," in Bridget's view. Riley's incisive dialogue and astute observations of family dynamics offer a sympathetic and painful perspective on both estrangement and the choices people make in order to survive parents who maybe should have never been parents at all. The result is a fine addition to Riley's notable body of work. Agent: Alice Whitwham, Cheney Agency.