White Lies by Susan Barrett
Publisher: Create Space (August 30, 2016)
Category: Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction; Contemporary Fiction; Family Saga
Tour Date: April/May, 2017
Available in: Print & ebook, 164 Pages
The story is told from three perspectives: that of Beth, the natural mother of Tess, Liz, the adoptive mother, and Tess herself. The reader’s sympathy is engaged with each woman in turn, as the intricacies of the plot demonstrate how nature and nurture interplay in the formation of personality.
Beth is a guest at a wedding. The bride is Tess, her natural daughter, who’d been adopted as a baby. During the moments leading up to the marriage ceremony, Beth remembers the lifetime events that have led to her present state of sick fear. Recent revelations have made her suspect that the bridegroom is the first child she’d given up for adoption, and therefore Tess’s half-brother. Will she speak of this impediment to matrimony, as invited by the priest, or forever hold her peace?
White Lies gives the answer in a way that reveals the complexities of truth-telling in the context of parenthood and adoption. An entertaining page-turner, the novel also traces the social changes in family life over the last fifty years.
Read an Excerpt:
p.80 in Part Two, Liz (the adoptive mother)
“One thing you should certainly take into account,” said Penny Williams, from the far side of her colossal desk, surrounded by piles of books, lay-out pads and colour proofs, “your life will be taken over.”
Mine won’t be, thought Liz. Penny’s saying that because she’s finding her own life difficult. Fifteen years as an artist’s agent before becoming pregnant. Holding down her job while running her home and being a good mother. She’s speaking for herself. People see the world through the prism of their own experience.
“You mustn’t think,” went on Penny, “that just because you’ve the knack of appealing to children in your work you’ll find it easy to have your own.”
Penny leaned back in her swivel chair and – happily, proudly – related the exploits of her toddler the previous day when she’d been on duty at home, it being the Belgian au pair’s day off.
Liz and and William, by way of contrast, would be working at home, sharing childcare. They’d take it in turns to be the one on duty. They would draw strict demarcation lines around their respective work areas. William’s carpentry room with all its terrifyingly sharp tools would be out of bounds as would her small studio full of spillable paints and coloured inks. The baby-to-be would lie in the sun on the terrace and when it was old enough, it would swim in the sea. A water-baby.
One of the scenes Liz liked to conjure up featured the child – boy or girl, as yet unchosen – sitting on her lap, listening to her trying out a new story. With her arms around the child, she also held a sketch pad. In her imagination, she could smell the shampoo in the child’s hair. The child held a big fat blue – or green or red, it varied – felt tip pen and made wild marks on the pad. A creative environment, it would be, back on the island.
“There’ll be lots of village women,” she told Penny. “They’ll be only too happy to whisk the baby away. Greeks worship children.”
Penny let a humph sound emerge from the back of her throat. “So you’re going back?”
“Of course. As soon as the adoption’s through. Five months or so from the time we get the baby.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said Penny. “It seems to me –” She paused before going on. “It seems to me that you’re lucky to have the choice. Unlike most of us, you can actually make a rational, considered decision to burden yourselves – or stay free.”
“For you it’s not a natural happening,” went on Penny. “For us poor mutts, we can have children so we are expected to. Almost duty bound. We have our mothers breathing down our necks, longing to be grannies, trying not to ask when we plan to stop work and have endless babies. You can’t imagine the grief I had from Paul’s Mum.” Penny put on a different voice to imitate her mother-in-law. “There’s poor old Mrs So-and-so living on her own, never had children, no one comes to visit her, she hasn’t a soul in the world who’d be notified if she dropped dead one day in her own front room. Wouldn’t be found for weeks. It’s such a comfort to me,” said Penny still being mother-in-law, “to know you and Paul are so close. You do so much for me. It’s such a blessing to have children, I can tell you, at my age when you’re widowed and poorly.” She changed back into being Penny. “It actually takes quite a brave person to say they don’t want children.”
Liz wondered if Penny had been the brave person she had in mind, who had succumbed at last. “Do you regret it then?”
“No. You can’t regret it once it’s happened. Now.” Becoming efficient. “Where are you with D, the D.B.P?”
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