Book review: You Said Forever by Susan Lewis

Events from the past catch up with a family trying to build a new life in the sunshine of New Zealand in a powerful and emotion-packed novel from the impressive Susan Lewis.

Monday, 30th January 2017, 1:19 pm
Updated Monday, 30th January 2017, 1:26 pm
You Said Forever by Susan Lewis
You Said Forever by Susan Lewis

You Said Forever, the final book in a haunting trilogy which began with No Child of Mine and Don’t Let Me Go, picks up the story of a mother and her adopted daughter who fled trauma and media headlines in England to what they hoped was anonymity on the other side of the world.

But, as Charlotte Goodman – who took terrible personal risks to keep her beloved Chloe safe –discovers, there is no hiding place from the enormity of what she did… and the difficult legacy she faces.

Lewis has now written thirty-six gripping, gritty and compelling novels, each a fascinating exploration of how ordinary people cope in extraordinary circumstances. Using meticulous research and her remarkable empathy, she has tackled some of the most emotive and distressing human and family issues with warmth, wisdom and compassion.

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Here, we catch up with former child protection worker Alex Lake, now living under her new name Charlotte Goodman in New Zealand.

Charlotte is married to Anthony Goodman and they live and work at Tuki River Winery, their artisan vineyard in Hawkes Bay, with their own children, Cooper, four, and Elodie, 18 months, and Chloe who is now aged eight.

Five years have passed since the dramatic events in England that brought them here and although their new life should be a paradise, the problems for Charlotte seem to mount by the day.

The winery business is struggling to keep afloat, Charlotte feels estranged from her children because of her work commitments, the passion seems to have gone out of her marriage and, worst of all, Chloe’s increasingly volatile and disruptive behaviour is starting to seriously affect the lives of the rest of the family.

Now, the headmaster at Chloe’s school has been forced to ask Charlotte to remove her daughter and start teaching her at home. Her precious adopted daughter is becoming like a ‘violent teen’ and an unrecognisable stranger.

The past is fast catching up and Charlotte will have to make the most harrowing decision that any woman could ever have to face...

You Said Forever, which can easily be read as a stand-alone story, is a devastating testament to the cruel legacy of early years trauma and the often hidden ordeals of the adoptive parents of abused children whose behaviour and mood swings can spiral dangerously out of control.

Brimming with family tensions, confrontations, highly-charged emotions and a heartbreaking sense of helplessness in the face of shocking discoveries and terrible choices, this is a rollercoaster journey that will have readers glued from start to finish.

There is sadness here, pain, suffering and some unpalatable home truths… but there is also hope, constancy and the redemptive power of love.

A master storyteller on top form…

(Century, hardback, £12.99)