Before I get too far into this, let me state for the record:

I do not have children, biological or otherwise.

There were a few vague months spent in Mississippi back in the mid-90s which I can’t account for with complete accuracy. But I’m pretty sure that I didn’t give birth during that time.

I say pretty sure because, now that I think about it, I did find a bottle of neonatal vitamins in the back of my car. There was no reason for me to have a bottle of neonatal vitamins. But there was also a circular saw and the torso of a shop mannequin which was zebra striped with spray paint. I don’t suppose there was a reason for those things to be in my car either.

About me having children though, while I have none of my own, I do have three nephews. They should count as mine in a partial sort of way because I 1) bought them a lot of stuff and 2) my behavior held some sway in their overall delinquency. And, after all, isn’t that what parents do to a large extent? Buy their kid lots of stuff and affect their development in either a positive, negative, or combo/biggie sized sort of way?

Ah, yes… I’ll have the number 3 Combo. Value sized. With hang-ups about my body on that Bruised Self-Image and instead of Codependence, I’ll have… let me see… I’ll have Unable to Maintain Intimate Relationships. And can I please add a large order of Controlling Parents resulting in Stubborn Children? Great, thanks…

I love my nephews and couldn’t imagine anything happening to them unless I did it myself. I mean, haven’t we all fantasized about throwing children into the drainage ditch behind Wal-Mart?

(Crickets.)

No?

(Tumbleweed.)

Whatever.

My nephews are older now. They could get themselves out of the drainage ditch behind Wal-Mart if I threw them in there. Nephew 1 has two kids of his own. (Side Note to Nephews 2 & 3: I’m not convinced that spreading our genes any further is the best idea. Perhaps we should do everybody a favor and let Nephew 1’s contribution to the population be our apology to the world. May those two precious demon spawn go forth and prosper.)

Even though the three boys aren’t technically my children, I still know what it feels like to be all Mother Bear about them. What I’m trying to say is, I sort of get it. I sort of get parenthood as much as a person who hasn’t actually had children of her own can sort of get it.

Tonight I went out for a drive with my dog.

Yeah, that wasn’t a very smooth segue, was it? All the parents reading this who were already skeptical about giving me the benefit of the doubt about ‘getting’ parenthood are now rolling their eyes and clicking off this page never to return. “Did you see what she wrote? She went out for a drive with her dog? I’ve got three kids, chewed up Cheerios in my hair, and school just started back. But this bitch went out for a drive with her dog. OH, and she sort of gets parenthood…”

So, tonight I went out for a drive. While I was out I saw one of these signs in a neighbor’s front yard:

DRIVE LIKE YOUR KIDS LIVE HERE

The Drive Like Your Kids Live Here website offers some soul-crushing statistics about how many children are injured or mortally wounded per year in motor vehicle accidents.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children 14 years of age and younger!

  • Every day in the United States an average of 3 children are killed in motor vehicle accidents!

  • Every day in the United States an average of 500 children are injured in motor vehicle accidents!

  • Every day motor vehicles kill more children than any disease!

None of these statistics are laughing matters and I’m not trivializing the importance of the campaign. If anything, I want you to share a laugh with me here,  go and buy one of these signs, and put it in your yard asap.

But, I mean… come on! It does leave some room…

When the dog and I got home, I posted a quick ha-ha on Facebook about the sign I saw but, the more I think about it, the more I mean it.

Imagine: Typical Southern Momma Voice:

Drive like YOUR kids live here? Uh-uh… That’s assuming way too much. You best drive like MY kids live here and you KNOW I’m gone whoop your butt if you come tearing by like a bat out of hell.

Drive like your kids live here, my foot. Cos, I’ve seen the way some of y’all raise them little heathens. Don’t be driving like them miscreants is in my neighborhood or you’ll wake up one morning with four flat tires and one of these signs parked where the sun don’t shine. Can I get an amen?

Preach.

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Thanks for stopping by! If you’d like to read by novel you can find it on Amazon.com:

Sometimes when I don’t know what to write, I take out a book that someone bought me for Christmas which has emblazoned upon the cover: 500 Writing Prompts. The book has a prompt or two on each page and then some lines upon which you are supposed to write your response.

I have never made it past the first page.

There are several reasons for having never made it past the first page. The main reason is that I am obsessive compulsive and, if I ever do write in this book, I would want to start at the beginning and answer each prompt thoroughly in the order in which it appears. The main problem with that is, I can’t seem to negotiate the first prompt. What is the first prompt?

While at the beach you decide to write a message in a bottle. What would it say? Who would you like to find it?

I have often been tempted to answer this prompt but found myself staring at it with contempt. I hate this prompt. My simple, belligerent brain begs me to give a very Amy Answer. The kind of answer that nobody wants to hear but that I can’t resist.

While at the beach you decide to write a message in a bottle. What would it say?

Dear Whom It May Concern,

Please get me the hell out of this bottle…

Who would you like to find it?

Somebody who could get me out of the bottle…

You see, I would never go to the beach and decide to write a message IN a bottle. I am not the kind of person who often climbs into bottles to write messages. Unless they’re speaking metaphorically (which, they are, it’s really the sentence structure that irritates me). If they’re speaking in metaphorical terms, there have been great swathes of my life where I have basically lived in a bottle.

In fact, thinking of being in a bottle at the beach reminds me of my high school graduation trip to Florida. That trip haunts me to this day because I behaved like a space shuttle re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. I wasn’t sure if I was going to destroy myself in a friction rich ball of atomic, tangerine flames. Or, if the dynamics of deceleration were going to fail me completely and I leave me to goose flop into the ocean at 25,000 miles per hour.

I remember at one point being locked in a bedroom with two boys. We were very drunk and it was the only way our friends could keep us safe. They came back periodically to check on us, I think. I don’t know what all happened in that room. I woke up now and then. It was dark except for a pale green light coming through the curtains.

At one point, I recall sitting with my back against the foot of the bed. I took an empty fifth bottle and broke it over my right knee. That kind of pain is sobering. One of the boys, crawled over and wrapped his arms around me and told me, “Stop. Please stop… You’re going to hurt yourself.”

And he was right. And so I stopped. For a while.

But it was too late. I was already hurt.

During that trip, I also half-heartedly tried to jump off a balcony. I thought I was in love with a boy who didn’t even really know I was alive. I remember lying on a sofa and watching him and the next minute I remember running for the balcony. I can only say that, now, I endure isolation and loneliness with a tad more grace.

I didn’t even know the boy that well. When I look back at it, I suppose what I was in love with was the idea of being loved. I needed somebody to love me so badly.

Okay, right… I didn’t mean to go there. I’ve felt embarrassed about that trip since 1988. It bothered me so much to think about people hating me. But, no… I didn’t set out to write about it tonight off the back of messages in bottles and beaches. I guess if I were going to answer the writing prompt without being a smartarse, it would go something like this:

While at the beach you decide to write a message in a bottle. What would it say?

Please forgive yourself.

Who would you like to find it?

Me.

A Review by Rebecca Monks

Honest and occasionally hilarious novel about a recovering drug addict

‘I first realized I loved Jack the day he drowned,’ begins Amy Burns’ novel, setting the reader up for a wistful tale on the pitfalls of a modern, melancholic romance. Don’t buy into it. There’s nothing romantic about this darkly witty road trip through the bumpy highway of a young woman’s mind. Instead, it’s about the anti-romance of reconciling life and love, finding your place in an imperfect family, and the way our flaws are exposed and exploited by the people closest to us.

(read more from Rebecca Monk’s Review at The List…)

 

Something happened to my hair yesterday. It wasn’t good.

And, it happened on one of those days that I had to, not only leave the house but, see another person who fully intended to see me back. To make matters worse, we’d never met before which meant that I had to seem as close to a functioning/productive human being as possible.

I knew the other person would have certain phonological expectations of me. There was no reason for her to suspect that I wouldn’t move my mouth in such a way as to allow sounds to escape which would coalesce into words and string together to form complete sentences, maybe even coherent, fully-realized ideas (perfumed with a hint of forethought).

I eventually managed to do that once or twice, even with the hair situation, albethey run-on sentences and tangential thoughts which contained, at times, too much personal information that I have never shared with another soul.  As I heard one confidence after another float into the conversation cloud hanging over the Ethiopian restaurant at the Pizitz Food Hall, my inner voice which still has some sense of dignity and hope for a brighter future kept saying, “I’m begging you, Amy – rip your lips off your face before you say anything else.”

But, it was too late.

Anyway, the hair emergency began earlier that morning when I sat in front of my laptop and turned on the webcam. I plugged in the heating-up, wand magic thing that I use when I want to look my very best to go to Wal-Mart or Publix and, operating my webcam as a makeshift mirror, I raised this wand to my head to start the long process of taming my hair. But I was caught, like the proverbial deer-in-headlights, when I accidentally got a good look at myself.

I see myself often enough but I try not to look. Look with a capital ‘L’. But I did in that instant and what I found disturbed me.

How long had it been since I’d washed my hair?

I put the wand thing down and thought.

After a while, I came up with a number. I’m not going to reveal the exact length of time. I feel that’s not particularly relevant at this juncture. (Cough, cough.) Let’s just say that it had been so long I thought, “I’m surprised the Health Department hasn’t threatened to shut me down; and, I can’t possibly meet this person without getting my head scrubbed by a professional.”

So, that was the plan: leave the house early enough to find a walk-in salon where I could get my hair washed, blow dried, styled – so that I wouldn’t look like a dandelion – and then go to my meeting.

It didn’t happen like that.

Imagine walking into a seemingly unremarkable beauty salon and asking, “Do you do coiffure reduction and follicle scarification?”

A Young Thing with suede brown eyes and dip-dyed split ends replies, “Don’t be stupid. Of course, we do.”

“Very well then,” you answer, as the beautimortician begins salivating and sharpening two antique fish knives.

You continue, “Cut it, fray it, thin it so that it’s REALLY easy for me to put on a wig.”

Young Thing takes a step back, a tinge of almost-respect pulls at the corners of her buttercup mouth. “You want the No Wig Cap? Are you sure?”

You nod… and somewhere in the back of the salon somebody whistles that famous western whistle from the Clint Eastwood movie, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly…“I’m sure.”

Then she comes at you with a freshly sharpened fish knife in one hand and a weed eater in the other and something ensues not wholly unrelated to shaving an Alaskan Musk Ox.

None of that actually happened.

It happened according to plan except, when she got it dried and straightened she said, “Do you want me to nip the ends?”

I looked at the ends and then I looked at Young Thing’s snarled lip. “Sure,” I said. “But only nip the ends. Okay? I’ve got a thing I’ve got to do today and I’m not feeling particularly adventurous. So, only a little bit off.”

“Yeah. I’ll just nip the ends.”

And she actually said it in a very impatient way, the same impatient way I used to talk to my mother when I was a teenager and she asked me questions like, ”Are you going to put ketchup on that?” as I stood there with a bottle of ketchup poised a half an inch above whatever food product I was about… to… put… ketchup… on… “Wait for it, you’ll see! Let the world unfold before you in a spectacle of wonderment, mother!”

So, anyway, somebody please get me a fucking dictionary. By definition does ‘nip the ends’ mean butcher this woman’s hair into some monstrous conglomeration of a fringe and a mullet; something that not even the Partridge Family would have wanted forty-seven years ago?

When Young Thing turned me around in the swivelly chair and and I got a good Look, capital ‘L,’ I didn’t say a word and neither did she. She took the cape from around my neck. We walked in silence to the front where she punched at the cash register for a moment and a surprisingly high number appeared on display. I swiped my debit card and left her a $10 tip when it flashed the question: do you want to add a tip to this purchase?

We parted without ceremony.

I went to the car, drove downtown, parked, and walked to the Pizitz Food Hall, found a seat in the restaurant where I waited for about fifteen minutes, drinking a Dr. Pepper.

The person I was meeting eventually emailed to let me know that she was standing just outside the door.

She described herself as, “In a pink dress.”

I ran my fingers through my hair one last time and went to greet her.

Once we were inside, seated, making first introductions, ordering, etc… I noticed that she was easily the most beautiful woman in the room, no doubt the smartest. She was confident, at ease, personable.

I heard a voice inside my head say, “Stop looking directly at her mouth. Stop squirming in your seat. Put your knees together.” And then, “How often do you think she washes her hair?”

Thanks to Beth Castrodale at Small Press Picks for the following review of Leaving is My Colour.

From Small Press Picks:

“I never thought I’d be the kind of person who could say things like, ‘Yes, I’ve spent a little time in jail,’ or, ‘If you count second cousins then, yeah, I’ve had sex with a relative.’ I also never thought I’d be married and divorced enough times for it to be financially sensible to invest in a courthouse parking permit. But, there you go.”

So observes Rachel Bennett, early in the witty, wickedly funny novel in which she stars: Leaving Is My Colour, by Amy Burns. As soon becomes clear, divorce and jail—the consequence of feeding a drug addiction—are far from Rachel’s only problems. The root of many of them is her deeply dysfunctional family: her well-meaning but mostly absent father; her selfish, judgmental mother; and her older sister, Julie, a bottomless source of disparagement and hostility.

Burns’s comic touch keeps the story from sinking under the weight of this dysfunction. Referring to her own birth, for example, Rachel observes: “Julie had asked for a puppy and [my parents] brought me home instead. She was put on infant homicide watch after my parents caught her trying to squirt dishwashing detergent up my nose. Our relationship hasn’t improved.”

 (read more from Beth’s review here…)

Demented narrator Rachel’s a kind of dysfunctional debutante. The daughter of vast wealth, she’s got through four marriages, endless drugs, breakdowns, therapy and rehab, all in search of the one thing money can’t buy. This is the love of her childhood sweetheart Jack, who’s with someone else and not interested.

The book’s a crazy mixed bag: sometimes dialogue, sometimes prose, moving back and forth in time and between degradation and glamour.

Restless Rachel might wake up in the Four Seasons penthouse, or sprawled on the floor with someone else’s wet dog.

Will she ever slow down and find happiness?

Very funny, fizzing with one-liners and sparkling with a febrile wit.

– Wendy Holden – The Daily Mail

My first novel was published 16 February. Here are a few of the reviews thus far.

Demented narrator Rachel’s a kind of dysfunctional debutante. The daughter of vast wealth, she’s got through four marriages, endless drugs, breakdowns, therapy and rehab, all in search of the one thing money can’t buy. This is the love of her childhood sweetheart Jack, who’s with someone else and not interested.

The book’s a crazy mixed bag: sometimes dialogue, sometimes prose, moving back and forth in time and between degradation and glamour.

Restless Rachel might wake up in the Four Seasons penthouse, or sprawled on the floor with someone else’s wet dog.

Will she ever slow down and find happiness?

Very funny, fizzing with one-liners and sparkling with a febrile wit.

– Wendy Holden – The Daily Mail

 

‘I first realised I loved Jack the day he drowned,’ begins Amy Burns’ novel, setting the reader up for a wistful tale on the pitfalls of a modern, melancholic romance. Don’t buy into it. There’s nothing romantic about this darkly witty road trip through the bumpy highway of a young woman’s mind. Instead, it’s about the anti-romance of reconciling life and love, finding your place in an imperfect family, and the way our flaws are exposed and exploited by the people closest to us.

Burns takes us through the life of Rachel, a serial divorcee and recovering drug addict, with acerbic pragmatism. Her sister never warmed to her because ‘she was expecting a puppy’. Her mother tried to poison her father when she suspected an affair. Jack is the love of her life, but actually, Jack’s a bit of a douche. He’s also married, distant and an imperfect representation of the idyllic life Rachel craves.

If you like novels with linear plots and a neat little ending, this isn’t for you. If instead, you want a book that is as honest, fractured and occasionally as hilarious as life itself, Leaving Is My Colour will look good on you.

– Rebeccca Monks – The List

 

Relentless, delicious mischief spills from this family’s eye-popping dysfunction. Whipsmart and wickedly witty – as Rachel careens towards rock-bottom, no-one who tries to get near her stands a chance.

– Kate Tough, author of Head for the Edge, Keeping Walking

 

A roller coaster ride of droll wit, and often laugh out loud one-liners, Leaving is My Colour puts us inside the head of four-times-married and love-starved Rachel. From her defective and wealthy family to Jack, her first love, and her drug rehabilitation and therapy sessions, she tells us about the absurdity of her life with no holds barred.

Rachel dips into significant episodes from her past and gradually we build a picture of this complex young woman, and learn of what she’s wanted all along. The book is written in a non linear way, yet comes together as a seamless, and very funny, whole.

– Maureen Vincent-Northam, Author

 

Loved it! The narrator, Rachel, takes us on a tartly funny journey through her life, in which she has lurched from one bad decision to another, barely stopping to pause for breath. ‘Halloween, 1969. I was born. My three-year-old sister wasn’t happy. Julie had asked for a puppy and they brought me home instead.’ It’s all downhill from there, as Rachel wisecracks her way through disappointments, many self inflicted. Often laugh-out-loud funny, Amy Burns has the word skills and timing of a stand-up comedian, while pulling off the difficult act of dealing with the serious subject of mental health with both humour and sensitivity. A great debut novel from an appealing new voice.

– Nicola Taylor, Author/Tutor

 

Rachel grew up in a dysfunctional family of what she thought was modest means until the day her father decided to announce they were rich. She was in and out of counseling sessions from the time she was a child when her hateful sister Julie claimed she was sexually active just for spite. Through drug addiction, rehab, and several failed marriages she never forgot about her first childhood sweetheart Jack, but it’s a hard lesson to learn that letting go of the past is the only way to find our future. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, Rachel’s sarcastic humor kept me turning the pages.

– Irene, Goodreads

 

I read this through in a brilliant three hours non stop. So many laughs, such an original voice and such a satisfactory ending. Rachel is the kind of gal you want to spend evenings with while being glad you aren’t her. Her mother is also fabulous in a truly awful way. Her Father is like a fairy godfather. This is such an entertaining, funny, true to life book. Enjoy it and pass it on!

– Katherine G. Abbott, Amazon Reviewer

 

Rachel thrashes her way through life, trying to push and pull it into some sort of shape, wise-cracking from within her bouts of despair, without ever appreciating that life (and her family: especially her family) simply won’t do as it is bid. Her childhood is riddled with family-induced insecurities, her teenage years by an unrewarding infatuation with Jack, her ‘adult’ years by addictions various and behaviour self-destructive until… until…

No, I won’t spoil it. All I can say is ‘read it’. It’s a very clever and very funny book that satirises just about anything it can lay its literary hands on. I’m going to read it again. Right now.

– Amazon Customer

 

What fun and wild ride with Rachel! She is so witty, sassy and deeply troubled. Amy Burns did a wonderful job with this book and I can’t wait to read more from her.

– Cathy Parker, Amazon

 

You just can’t help but love Rachel! She’s weirdly wacky and terribly troubled but the author, Amy Burns, kept me enthralled in the crazy tale of her life. And somehow makes it humorous too. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read more by this new writer.

– MP Ryan, Amazon

 

It’s almost like a collection of short stories the way that all the reminiscences are given their own chapters, and it’s also a little like an American Housewife take on Ferrante. You’ll love Rachel, because although she’s a mess she’s honest and realistic. She’s an incredbile character that will stay with you long after you’ve finished this book.

– Hannah Bookseller Review Waterstones Edinburgh West End

 

Such a great book, have to take a moment to highlight it. Provocative, witty and above all enthralling.It plays around with narrative structure to great effect but delivers in the essential art of a good story told.

– Silem Renk, Amazon

 

Great book. Loved reading it. Read it in 3 evenings because I could not put it down. Five stars

– Amy Whitfield, Amazon

 

Amy Burns brings us the indelible character of Rachel. Smart, sassy, recently rich and deeply troubled. Rachel’s dysfunctional family has made Rachel a neurotic, yet lovable mess. For anyone who has struggled with identity within their own screwed up family, you will empathize and be highly entertained by Rachel’s antics. Fun read!

– BabeOBooks, Amazon

 

This is a fast-paced novel which is rare in that it provides something for those of us who love literary fiction and humor. On the surface, the characters might seem glib but there is a lot to be learned from the complex relationships in this dysfunctional family. I loved Rachel and her wit but found that I also loved the cast of supporting characters – especially Phillip and the mother and father. This novel had me crying in one part (I won’t spoil it) and it had me laughing throughout.

– The Fifth Reviewer, Amazon

 

You are my new favorite author! Amy Burns this book is brilliant! I found so much common ground with Rachel it was uncanny at times! Her realizations and struggles were very thought provoking, her journey to her final realization so familiar…Amy this book… I loved it…can’t wait until the next!

– Lynn Gordon Jones

 

I understand it is customary to complete an entire book before submitting a review, but… I’m not even half way done and I’m hooked! Love it!

– Sad kid dad, iTunes

 

Funny with just the right amount of dark. Thoroughly enjoyed it! Looking forward to seeing what Mrs. Burns comes out with next.

– Amazon Customer

 

I could totally see this book being made into a movie. The characters can be perfectly horrible at times but that’s what I loved most about them! The family is blissfully dysfunctional and wisecracking Rachel is caught right in the middle of it. There are tender moments in the novel, though. While it made me laugh a lot, it also made me think too. Although it is funny, it is poignant at the same time, dealing with mental health issues and addiction. I love the mother character! Hilarious.

– Kindle Customer, Amazon

 

Dark and unconventional, but so funny – in a first world tragic kind of way.

– Laura Gillespie, Goodreads

 

This is a really funny book. Rachel, bless her heart, is a lovable mess. I couldn’t help but keep reading just to see what she would get into next. There is more to it than meets the eye. Her family isn’t close and it seems like they’re awful to each other but, it really is a real-life-glimpse at how we can hurt the ones we love most. I cheered at the ending and loved all the characters, despite their faults – especially her fantastic mother and father!

– Laraine Stewart, Goodreads

 

This book is creative and fun roller coaster ride through the life of an addict trying to run from life. I loved the dysfunction and the family dynamics. The way the book was written by giving just a little history at a time made me read til the wee hours to see what was next. I can’t wait for more from Amy Burns.

– Leslie H, Amazon

 

Reading a book like Amy Burn’s novel, “Leaving is My Colour”, is like watching a skilled juggler keep numerous balls in the air. One marvels not only how many balls the juggler can manage, but also how long she can keep them up. Burns keeps a lot of facets of Rachel Bennett’s life aloft at once: drug addiction and rehabilitation, dysfunctional family, multiple marriages, unrequited love, and caring friends, all serious subjects, but Burns infuses all of them with a pervasive, charming wit. They come at you in a dizzying, hilarious array, and part of the enjoyment of the novel is admiration for how Burns never drops one ball until she is ready, and when she does, it’s at the perfect moment, the moment she has been leading the reader to all along, the moment the reader has been wishing for without actually knowing it.

To accomplish this takes a mastery of the craft.I highly recommend this book.

– D.G. Wisker, Amazon

 

I love you! The book was amazing. What is funny is I read it in your voice. It was like having a reunion talk with you. Going from one of our screw ups to another and always being able to circle back around to any fore mentioned topic and keep going. I literally laughed out loud many times. I learned some new vocab words and was reintroduced to some I had forgotten I knew!! I loved the mother in the story… “she would abort me now if she could”. Felicia was the best. I want to hang out with her pretentious ass.

I bought all my employees the book. The ones that have finished it loved it too. We are in a warped field and it’s like hearing the story of some of our folks!!

– Leslie Heatherly Holland

 

What a hoot this book is!!! Rachel is a character…lol…The writing which brings us into the life of a drug addict and her family is sometimes sad, sometimes funny. I found myself wanting to get back to reading this book when I had other things to do. The way Rachel deals with her family will keep you glued to the pages. Very entertaining book and one I would recommend if you want a light hearted read. Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the advanced copy of the book in return from my honest review.

– vnunez- msluv2read, Amazon

 

Both funny and serious. I easily related to Rachel! Poor decisions, not fitting in any particular place, total dysfunctional family life! Taking every direction except the right one to discover what she wanted was just in front of her all along. I laughted and cried, but couldn’t put it down! Can’t wait for the next novel from Amy Burns!

– Lynn J, Amazon

 

This is a must read! So funny and a great style, crying out to be filmed. Can’t wait for the next Burns novel 🙂

Amazon Customer, Amazon

 

This book is fun and cleverly written – you’ll want to read it all in a single sitting. It reminded me a little of The First Bad Man by Miranda July but Burns allows her readers to enjoy the tale in seemingly effortless style. Buy a copy, buy a few – what else would you get friends for birthdays and Christmas?!

Ailsa, Amazon

 

Ace beach read by @Amy_E_Burns. I love @FreightBooks. Thanks for recommendation & loan, @somefiasco.

Emily Morris, Author of My Shitty Twenties (Twitter)

 

The Exit Helen FitzgeraldIf psychological thrillers are your thing and you haven’t read work by Australian author Helen Fitzgerald then get your skates on. You can start with The Cry (Faber & Faber, 2013) which Fitzgerald perfectly tunes, throttling the narrative forward at a steady pace until the reader is racing along at a fevered pitch, white-knuckled and desperate to know what happened to Noah – Joanna and Alistair’s newborn son who was apparently taken from the couple’s hire car. The case becomes fodder for a media firestorm and, as events continue to disintegrate, Fitzgerald’s prose patches the reader directly into Joanna’s decent into madness and Alistair’s suspiciously cool detachment. It’s one – must read – to find out if all is what it seems.

The Cry should be enough to whet your appetite while you wait for the release of Fitzgerald’s latest novel, The Exit (Faber & Faber, February 5, 2013). The Exit deftly alternates between the points of view of Catherine, a beautiful 23-year-old whose world revolves around social media, flirting, and partying; and Rose, an 82-year-old children’s author who suffers from dementia and fades in and out of her present self to her 10-year-old self.

The novel opens with Catherine who lives at home, has huge credit card bills, a steady diet of shallow relationships, and no real ambition other than to dodge conflict with her obsessive, hyper-organized mother who has finally cracked the whip – insisting that Catherine gets a job. To appease her mother, Catherine does take a job at Dear Green, a care home in Glasgow. She can barely hide her repulsion for the old people but keeps her spirits high with the secret knowledge that, just as soon as she has enough money, she’ll take off to Costa Rica where she’ll be free from all responsibility – free to dance, drink rum, and work on nothing but her tan!

But Rose, who in her lucid moments is still extremely savvy, knows a secret. A terrible secret about what goes on in Room 7 at Dear Green. It’s been easy for the regular staff at the care home to brush Rose’s concerns aside as the ravings of a demented old woman but she sees an opportunity with this new girl. Maybe Catherine can get her message to the outside world. Maybe Catherine can get to the bottom of the whole twisted, depraved mystery… if only Rose could stay in the present long enough to convince Catherine without the trauma of her past rising up and plunging her into the cold river of her past, into the world of a terrified 10-year-old child.

With interesting twists throughout that heighten the importance of making Catherine a ‘believer’, the question is… can Rose convince Catherine that something horrible is happening in Room 7 before it’s too late? And is Catherine ready to shed the pretense of her shallow existence and face both the darkness and the light of the real world?

It’s a novel worth reading to find out. Fitzgerald’s prose is at once straightforward and humorous; insightful and chilling. The Exit, have a read.

 

Review By:
Amy Burns: Managing Editor of Mulberry Fork Review, holds a PhD from the University of Glasgow, and is represented by Lucy Luck at Aitken Alexander.