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Book DetailsISBN: 9780733639180
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Book Review: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer - Reviewed by CloggieA (17 Feb 2019)
5 stars “What happens when stories like theirs are lost? What happens when there’s no one left to pass your experience on to, or you just can’t bring yourself to share it?”
The Things We Cannot Say is the sixth novel by best-selling Australian author, Kelly Rimmer. On a farm in southern Poland in 1940, seventeen-year-old Alina Dziak lives in hope. Her twin brothers have been sent to work camps by the Nazis. The occupying force takes all their farm produces. Her life has shrunk to the farm and her family and escaping the notice of the soldiers. But Tomasz Slaski, the man to whom she has promised her heart, Tomasz will return from Warsaw to marry her: this, she truly believes.
For Florida mother Alice Michaels, life in 2019 is already busy: her husband has a stressful job in the plastics industry, her 10 year-old daughter Pascale is highly gifted and needs additional challenges to keep her satisfied, and her 7 year-old son, Edison is on the autism spectrum, requiring a disproportionate amount of her attention to keep their lives organised and prevent meltdowns.
The stroke that lands her beloved 95 year-old grandmother, Hanna in hospital, rendering her non-verbal, naturally disrupts the necessarily rigid schedule of Alice’s days, and puts added pressure on her already-strained marriage. Hanna virtually raised Alice, so when she asks or, rather, insists, that Alice goes to Poland on a vague mission (vague because it is communicated via Eddie’s useful-but-by-no-means-perfect communication app), Alice finds she cannot refuse. But in Poland, despite a few clues and a highly competent guide, Alice hits brick walls.
Rimmer explores several topics in this novel, in particular the stigma of an autism spectrum diagnosis and persecution by Nazis of Polish Jews during the wartime occupation. Her extensive research into these is apparent on every page, and she captures the setting with consummate ease.
Alina’s narrative tells a heartfelt wartime romance that prevails through hunger and hardship, distance and time. Her long-held secrets certainly cause Alice some difficulties in 2019. While Alina and Alice, both strong but flawed women, earn respect with their narratives, Eddie, with very few words, captures hearts. Rimmer cleverly uses Eddie’s echolalia to succinctly summarise the behaviour exhibited by characters significant to him.
Rimmer populates her novel with convincing characters and dialogue, but also gives the reader a great plot twist: a mystery that becomes apparent from tiny clues scattered throughout. The astute reader will pick these up, but just how it comes together will have the reader racing to the final, deeply emotional chapters. Guilt, grief, kindness and courage, cruelty, betrayal, faith, all feature in a story that will have eyes welling up and tissues reached for. A brilliant read! This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Hachette Australia and the author.
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