If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman
Publishing Date: 21st February 2019
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 369
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
Audrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.
As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?
“If Only I Could Tell You” by Hannah Beckerman introduces us to two sisters, Jess and Lily, separated by a secret and guilt for almost most of their lives. They both have children of their own now: Mia and Phoebe, sixteen – years – old cousins who were never allowed to meet. After Audrey, mother of Jess and Lily, has been diagnosed with cancer, she’s been living with Jess and she’s desperate to find out what has happened in the past, why her daughters are estranged, and to bring the family together again. Will she be able to do this? Has she enough time? Which secrets are still to come out into the open?
It was not the highly appraised and advertised twist that made this book so special – it’s relatively easy to guess. But what makes this book special and unique is the way it was written, author’s way with words, descriptions and the beautifully captured relationships and family dynamics and the story itself. It’s unbelievable how beautifully Hannah Beckerman touched upon issues and themes that feel so very personal and difficult.
We are introduced to Jess and Lily and their families: Jess is a single mum to Mia, and Lily is a successful businesswoman with a husband and a daughter Phoebe. There is also their mother Audrey. Then the author takes are on a journey, jumping between past and present, telling us what has happened as far as in June 1988. What I really appreciated was the fact that the big secret hasn’t been kept till the very end, that it was revealed at the right moment when we were still desperate to know what has happened. Though I must admit that I couldn’t believe that Jess was able to keep her grudge for so long – a grudge, that, let’s be honest, was not worth it. It was really difficult for me to imagine that it really could happen, and her obstinacy made me feel desperate. I was also probably expecting that something really, really out of this world has happened on this day but – unfortunately – the revelation didn’t shake nor shocked me. Yes, my biggest problem was with Jess. I simply couldn’t get over the fact that she was so stubborn, cold and fierce. It annoyed and exasperated me, especially as I a) guessed what it was she was so angry about and b) it wasn’t dramatic enough for me to agree with her decisions. This one moment of misinterpretation has broken so many lives – I understand she was only 10 years old then but she had enough chances to clear the air throughout the years. Yes, learning the truth has helped me a little to fell for Jess, but only a little, it was really hard for me to warm to her, though I of course understood her sorrow. I felt much more empathy to Audrey, Lily, Mia and Phoebe to be honest, though all the characters were really well developed and they had depth to them.
However, it is a story about how the long – held grudges can affect feelings and whole relationships, breaking their whole family and the author has captured and described it brilliantly. She has got into her characters’ heads, as we got incredibly broad and detailed insight into Jess and Lily’s lives – she didn’t make the lives of the characters easy. They all had their share of sorrow, sadness and unhappiness in their lives.
There is a lot of grief and sadness on this book but it doesn’t mean that it’s depressing – on the contrary, I’ve never lost hope when reading this novel, and even though I’ve finished it in tears, there was still light in me. Simply, the author has gorgeous ways with words and how she describes how loss and grief affected the characters was beautiful and uplifting. She writes about different kinds of loss, not only when we lose someone literally but also when life choices drive us apart – and this all written in a tender, understanding way without judging. There were many layers in this story and I couldn’t wait to unravel them all.
Altogether, “If Only I Could Tell You” was a tender, gentle tale with a family at its core. It was heart – breaking. It was unbelievably honest and genuine in perception. There was so much depth to this book, it was clever, complex and touching upon such tender issues as love and loss, forgiveness, grief and family. The characters felt very real, and it doesn’t happen often when I experience so much feelings and emotions towards them. It was a powerful and moving story, exploring unconditional love, and it will make you think – the moral dilemma that you’ll never want to contemplate by yourself will make you think and understand even more what real love is. It describes the bonds between mothers, sisters, granddaughters and cousins in a poignant, honest and realistic way. Highly recommended!