The Leftovers by Cassandra Parkin
When she leaves nursing for a job as live-in carer for Frey, a young man with autism (although, correctly in my opinion, this is never named), she seems to have found the perfect balance. A fortnight with Frey’s calming regularity followed by a fortnight with her brother’s chaos. But now Noah is dead, along with her beloved father, and Callie is compelled to stay with the mother she’s avoided since she was eleven years old.
Cassandra Parkin has published a novel a year since 2015 with – if the two I’ve read (this and Soldier Boy) typify her oeuvre – no loss of emotional depth. She adroitly mines the layers of deception within dysfunctional families, and compassionately explores the workings of atypical minds. I especially admired the portrayal of Frey, and the potential gap between how Callie perceives him and how he perceives himself.
I won’t even hint at the rest of this novel’s territory: I want you to have the pleasure of discovering it yourself. As someone who knows there’s often meaning in ‘madness’, I’m surprised how long it took me to guess how cleverly the author was weaving her web.
I’m sure I’ll soon be reading other novels which acknowledge the pandemic – indeed I’m writing one myself – but this will always be special as it’s the first. Thank you to Legend Press for my review copy. Overall, it’s a dark novel about what we’ll sacrifice to please the people we love.
Click on the image for more about my own novel about the unfortunate consequences of missing the meaning in ‘madness’.
Small Forgotten Moments by Annalisa Crawford
With severe amnesia, life’s hard enough for Jo. Unable to recall much beyond the last four years, she couldn’t survive without the support of flatmate, Nathan, and best friend, Lily. Estranged from her mother, but unsure why, she decides to return to the seaside town in Cornwall where she grew up. Will the sights and sounds of home reconnect her to the past?
Many struggle to process childhood trauma. Even more of us have memories we’d rather forget. Annalisa Crawford cleverly weaves these themes into a page-turning contemporary ghost story with a fabulous twist. Small Forgotten Moments is published by Vine Leaves Press.
Click on her image to read Annalisa’s post here on Annecdotal on four of the novels that influenced Small Forgotten Moments. I can think of another that is similar, but won’t mention it in case it spoils the reveal. If you’re interested in fiction about homegoing, do check out my latest column at the Carrot Ranch. Plus, you can read my recently-published short story, “My Dirty Weekend”, about a woman estranged from her mother via the image of the couple on the bench.
Last weekend, I had a bookstall and sold exactly one book, which wasn’t so dire given the poor attendance at the event. But, being outdoors in the September sunshine, chatting to other authors (and a couple of customers), it was a pleasant day.
Bracken scratches my ankles as I traverse another false summit. For years, I’ve hacked through forest, trod on tarmac, scrambled over boulders, meandered through meadows, lost my way and rediscovered it, but still can’t reach the top. Yet it’s called to me since childhood, as I farmed in the valley below. “Come, scale the mountain, and sit on the gritstone throne.” The closer I get, the more it eludes me, but glimpses tantalise, urging me on. Until, pausing to slake my thirst, I see marvels reflected in the pool. “Relax,” say the waters. “There’s a wondrous view from here.”