When Skye and her twin sister Ginny were 20 years old, they had their bright future planned: they were going to get out of their small Scottish town of Eilean Shiel, and they were heading off to America in search of fame. They had talent and youth on their side, and stars in their eyes … until an unimaginable tragedy brought their plans to an abrupt halt.
Ginny falls to her death from the cliffs near their home, and it’s deemed an accident, but Skye knows that her mother – and she’s sure most of the close-knit town – blame her. And she bears the full brunt of the blame, feeling the need to distance herself from what she feels are accusations that she is “the twin that didn’t die”. And she stays away for 15 years, swearing that she won’t return until she’s asked.
Finally, the day comes when her brother Bill tells her that their mother is ailing and she needs to come home. After years of simply saying that she’s not well, or deteriorating, he finally says the words that will bring Skye back. She realises though that this homecoming will be difficult. She intends confronting her mother – ill or not – about the years of unspoken reproach that have passed between them. As soon as she arrives in Eilean Shiel she senses a feeling of unease among the people in the community that she turned her back on, and quickly understands that it’s not because she left, or that she hasn’t been back to look after her mother until now. Something doesn’t feel right, and before she’s even had a chance to settle in, she knows that this all dates back to that awful night that her sister died.
I wouldn’t necessarily call this a thriller, but it’s written with a slow-burning sense of urgency that underlies every page. Sadness and loss permeates the home that Skye moves back into with her mother, but the obvious secrecy and avoidance kept me from feeling as overwhelmingly sorry for the older woman than I might otherwise have felt. Skye has spent so much of her life feeling that she has lost a piece of herself, purely because she has not been told certain pieces of information that others feel she didn’t need to know. But one does need to ask: “Did she ever ask the right questions?” This was the recurring query that went through my mind. I just couldn’t help wondering … but then I realised that her pain was too raw, and she was far too vulnerable to confront it, and then, as so often happens … it was just too late!
The theme of family is strong throughout the book, as is the theme of community and culture – ideas that are all beautifully portrayed. It makes one understand how very difficult it must have been for Skye to uproot herself and to stay away for so long, on her own.
This is a highly recommended 4-star read.
Lauren Westwood writes dark and romantic women’s fiction and is also an award-winning children’s writer. Originally from California, she now lives in England in a pernickety old house built in 1602, with her partner and three daughters.
Lauren hopes you enjoy her latest book, My Mother’s Silence, which is a dark, emotional journey about homecoming and family secrets. Your opinions are important to her, so please do leave a review.
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