This is one of those ‘What if …?’ conversation starters. What if you’re driving down a dark, winding country road late at night with your two daughters asleep on the back seat, happy and content after a lovely week away from the stress of work and school. All of a sudden, something flashes into your peripheral vision, causing you to lose focus and you swerve off the road, onto the embankment, through the trees and you land up plunging into an icy lake. You manage to free yourself from your seatbelt, but as the car quickly sinks into the depths, you realise with absolute dread that you will only have time to rescue one of your daughters in the back! Which one will it be?
This is what happens to Lizzie and her daughters, sullen teenager Portia, and bright, sunny Becca, who’s the image of Lizzie herself. They’ve just spent a week away in the countryside and are on their way back home to husband and father Dan. After stopping off at a village shop, they’re back on the road, and Lizzie is eager to get home, but wondering if it might have been a mistake to have left so late, as now they’re travelling in the dark, the weather is awful, the rain is bucketing down and the roads are quite twisty and what do you know … there’s no phone signal out there, as it’s quite remote. The girls fall asleep in the back seat and Lizzie is driving along the quiet road. It seems like she’s the only car out there, but suddenly … she’s not quite sure … she sees something in the trees up ahead. Maybe something like a flash of light? She’s not really sure but she carries on driving. And then, suddenly, blinding lights are coming right at her and Lizzie has no choice but to swerve off the road. Before she knows it she’s lost all control of the car and she can’t seem to get the brakes to do what they’re meant to do. They’re crashing through trees and branches and it’s all happening at breakneck speed, until they land up in a lake and start sinking … fast!
Lizzie knows she is panicking and not thinking straight but she manages to get her seatbelt off. The water is freezing and a frightening clarity dawns on her: she is only going to have time to save one of the girls in the back of the car. There simply won’t be time to save them both! Instinct takes over. She really has no idea what she’s doing … or does she? She reaches back, unclasps one of the buckles on a seatbelt and grabs the girl she can get to, pulling her to the surface. She leaves her there, cold and unconscious, and tries to go back for the other one, but it is an impossible task. The lake is too deep and she has lost her bearings. She returns to the daughter she has rescued, knowing she did all she could do, knowing it wasn’t enough.
What really happened that night on the road and in the lake? That’s what the police want to know when they come calling. They don’t believe Lizzie when she says she can’t remember. They insist that she must have fallen asleep at the wheel, but she’s sure that’s not what happened. And which daughter did she save? Laura Jarratt does an excellent job stringing the reader along for a few chapters before she reveals the answer.
Is there a possibility that some external element, another party played a role in what happened on the road that night? Could there have been some sort of foul play? After all, both Lizzie and Dan are criminal lawyers so there’s a slim chance that someone may have been trying to get back at one of them for something … isn’t there? The tension builds throughout and one can almost feel the pain that this family is going through. Not only have they lost a child, but it seems they’re being accused of having done something, only they’re not quite sure what.
Lizzie, Dan and their surviving daughter all have to struggle through their grief in their own vastly different ways. They also need to try and lean on each other and remain united as a family in the face of all that’s thrown at them. Can they manage to remain a strong unit or will they crumble and be unable to cope with the barrage of accusations they’re faced with? And will Lizzie eventually remember what actually happened that night?
Laura Jarratt has created a tense, character driven, riveting story that will make you wonder what lengths you would go to in order to protect those you love, especially if you are a mother. What if you find yourself in an untenable situation? What then? This is a conversation starter that will probably leave you with even more questions than answers. You’ll certainly be left thinking about it long after you finish that last page. 4 stars from me.
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