Between a Mother and Her Child: A Novel. Elizabeth Noble. Penguin Group (USA). September 2013. 448 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780425267936.
There is no deeper love than that between a mother and child and there is no greater loss than that experienced by a parent who has lost that beloved child to death. The life of Maggie and Bill Barrett changed irrevocably the day their son, Jake who died in the tsunami of Indonesia in 2004. Bill chooses to grieve in a totally different way from Maggie, and their daughter Aly. But Maggie senses that Aly is drawing farther and farther away from her. Yes she excels in her school work and is planning to go to med school but she’s like a taught spring ready to lash out and Maggie doesn’t have a clue about Aly’s grief and how she perceives the time since that momentous day that forever altered their lives.
Maggie asks Bill to leave and he begins to move on with his life which includes meeting a women with whom he is developing a loving relationship, different though it is from what Maggie and Bill once had. Maggie, on the other hand, relies totally on her emotional connection with her sister Livy or Liv, who lives in Australia and now on another anniversary of Jake’s death visits Maggie in England. But Liv’s life is about to change as she will soon marry Scott. She would do anything for her sister but can she be as available to Maggie’s needs and should she be. And Aly will meet someone special too, a surprise to the reader, the outcome which is unique and very real!
Liv comes up with a potential solution that is also unique, placing an ad for a companion for Maggie. Kate seems to be the ideal person for this painful and burdened household, yet she has issues of her own that slowly become obvious due to Aly’s curiosity and the action that flows from her need to know. This is a subplot that arrives at the perfect place in this poignant story. There are, it turns out, many ways to lose a child besides death.
While this book does have some very sorrowful moments, for the most part there is a healthy mixture of tension, laughter, relief, release and more that is so engaging and keeps the reader glued to the pages. The author clearly “knows” the emotional and mental map of losing a child and how the survival mode and more than survival mode can regress or progress. Whether the reader knows or doesn’t know is irrelevant; this novel is lovingly and carefully crafted, unforgettable! It deserves a wide, wide audience! Well done, indeed, Ms. Noble!