If Only I Could Tell You is half mystery, half tender tale about grief and estrangement and the kind of loss that can break even the closest family apart. A must read!
A secret between two sisters.
A lifetime of lies unraveling.
Can one broken family find their way back to each other?
Audrey’s dream as a mother had been for her daughters, Jess and Lily, to be as close as only sisters can be. But now, as adults, they no longer speak to each other, and Audrey’s two teenage granddaughters have never met. Audrey just can’t help feeling like she’s been dealt more than her fair share as she’s watched her family come undone over the years, and she has no idea how to fix her family as she wonders if they will ever be whole again.
If only Audrey had known three decades ago that a secret could have the power to split her family in two, and yet, also keep them linked. And when hostilities threaten to spiral out of control, a devastating choice that was made so many years ago is about to be revealed, testing this family once and for all.
Once the truth is revealed, will it be enough to put her family back together again or break them apart forever?
Book Review by Fabulous Book Fiend
An honest story of love, loss and family
I should not have started this book before bedtime because then bedtime ended up being 4am with an alarm set so I could wake up and immediately finish reading this. This book covers so much: Family, friendship, love, loss, grief and honesty. I really didn’t know which direction this book was going to turn in next, there is just so much depth and so many hidden messages throughout the novel.
I loved the family featured in the novel. Audrey is mother to Lily and Jess and grandmother to Mia (Jess’s daughter) and Phoebe (Lily’s daughter). I love the fact that Audrey’s pattern of two daughters is repeated with her having two granddaughters. They live so close to each other and yet are so far apart in so many ways. Although Audrey is the lynch pin of the story, the majority of the time we either see things from Jess’s perspective or Lily’s but we do sometimes have an Audrey narrative as well, just to add another layer to the events that unfold.
There is so much grief and loss in this novel in so many different ways and I love the fact that this author shows how loss can affect people so differently and in just so many ways that may not become clear until a long while after the fact. We know that it can affect life choices and either bring people together or drive them apart. And then there is the loss that we can experience even when nobody has died, the loss that we experience through rifts in families or marriages and all of this is explored so tenderly and so beautifully in this novel. I expected to cry a lot but I didn’t because I was marvelling at the clever way Hannah Beckerman has woven this novel with its layers and its mirroring of feelings and events, it really is a spectacle.
I loved the setting of this story with so much of it taking place in one corner of London. It was easy to picture and easy to imagine these characters placed in that setting. There definitely is a care warning for grief and loss in this novel so make sure you are in the right place to do so before picking this one up. These characters became very real to me as I was reading, their lives and their unique perspective of themselves and each other and I imagine that they will stay with me for a while to come. This is a beautiful novel so full of real life and so full of loss but in a very tender and sympathetic way. I definitely recommend adding this one to you TBR now.
June 23, 1988
It is a Thursday morning and Jess is walking up the stairs even though she has no need; she has already brushed her teeth and pulled her hair into some semblance of a ponytail. Her schoolbag is leaning against the umbrella stand by the front door and, in a few minutes, she and Lily will meet in the hallway and begin making their way to school.
Later—many years later—Jess will speculate that somehow she knew, somehow she sensed what was happening: an inexplicable sisterly intuition compelling her to investigate.
As she reaches the top of the stairs, Lily is coming out of the spare bedroom. Her back is turned to Jess and she closes the door quietly, reverentially almost, her hands clasped around the handle. Jess watches her take in a long, deep breath that she seems to hold in her chest for an impossible length of time before letting it out slowly, steadily.
“What are you doing?”
Lily jumps around, her face flushed, eyes darting from left to right. “Why are you creeping up on me like that?” she hisses at Jess in an angry whisper that does not sound like her usual voice.
“We’re not supposed to go in there this morning. We were told not to.”
Jess hears plaintiveness in her own voice, bordering on a whine, and she winces at the sound of it.
“Do not tell Mum I was in there. I mean it, Jess. You don’t want to be a telltale.”
About the Author
Hannah Beckerman studied English at King’s College (London) for her undergraduate degree, and at Queen Mary and Westfield (London) for her master’s degree. She spent twelve years working in television, first as a producer for the BBC and subsequently as a commissioning editor for arts and documentaries at Channel 4 and the Discovery Channel USA.
She lived in Bangladesh for two years, working for the BBC World Service Trust. She is now a full-time author and journalist as well as a book critic and features writer for the Observer, the FT Weekend Magazine and the Sunday Express. She is also a regular chair at literary festivals and events and has been a judge for numerous book prizes including the Costa Book Awards. If Only I Could Tell You is Hannah’s second novel. She lives in London with her husband and daughter.