A review by Emma Streeton
‘Everything had ended, and started, the day her youngest brother had died.’ But that was not when Grace went away.
‘Functionally dysfunctional.’ That’s how financial analyst Grace Fairley describes her family. A family fractured by tragedy and kept that way by anger, resentment and petty jealousies. As the eldest sibling, Grace tried to keep the family connected. But now she’s accepted a job offer in London, a world away from her family in the small community of Miners Ridge. Time-zones and an enormous workload mean she has no option but to take a step back from the family dynamics.
Sarah Fairley, Grace’s mother, fled Miners Ridge and her embittered husband eight years ago. Now, in Grace’s absence, she finds herself pulled back to the small town where her estranged children and grandchildren live. Drawn into the local community and trying to rebuild family relationships, she uncovers a long-kept secret that could change her family’s world.
Who doesn’t love a good contemporary family drama? I for one love a story centered around the dramas of a dysfunctional family and in this novel the relationship interplays were explosive. Told in both Grace and Sarah’s voices, with plenty to entertain, there is very little not to like about this novel. Through their narratives we learn about the events of the past that tore this family so wide apart. We witness how the death of one family member can fracture an entire family, the emotional toll of learning to forgive and the difficulties of moving forward.
I am new to Appleyard’s novels. Not knowing what to expect from this writer, I was thrilled to be hooked from the first chapter. This story explores beautifully how life can deal some very hard blows and one tragedy can lead to very different responses in all those involved. We often see how families either pull together or crumble in the face of misfortune. The Fairleys clearly break apart and, as the story unfolds, we follow the characters as they attempt to rebuild happiness, find love and learn to heal.
With a thoroughly enjoyable storyline, mostly likable characters and a pleasing outcome, When Grace Went Away is a satisfying read. I am keen to explore the other novels written by Appleyard and she is certainly a name I will be looking out for in the future.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Imprint: HQ Fiction – AU (HarperCollins)
Format: paperback, 448 pages