Author: Nicole Trope
I finished reading this book late last night, with 20 pages to go I couldn’t leave it… I had to know what happened. So, I finished the book and headed off to bed and now, almost 24 hours later I’m still trying to process it – a certain sign of a story sure to stay with me for a long time.
Blame tells the story of two families torn apart by a terrible car accident from the points of view of the two mothers closest to the accident. The story is told in alternating chapters from the perspective of both Anna and Caro, as they sit in police interview rooms telling the story of the accident – and their decade long friendship.
Once I got involved in this story I was hooked and had trouble putting it down. The story is about the accident and trying to establish exactly what happened on the afternoon that Maya McAllen lost her life but we soon discover that this is not a simple black and white situation or matter of allocating responsibility.
Caro and Anna are both adamant that to understand the accident you must first understand the entire situation, meaning the story needs to be told from the very day they met a decade earlier.
The story starts with two very broken women, understandably as one has just lost her only daughter and the other was driving the car that hit her. The two were best friends, they never went a day without talking; until the accident.
We realise early on that there are elements of the accident that are questionable and it isn’t until near the end of the story we discover the answers so through it all the suspense grows as we try to work out the hidden truth at the basis of the story.
Most of the story takes place over the two days of interviews but we cover an entire friendship, and the entire life of a child.
Blame is more the story of the characters than the accident, more about the events that led them to those interviews than the interviews themselves.
Every time I go to start writing about one of the mothers I stop myself because they have almost as much in common as they do that contrasts but they have very different ways of handling things. Anna’s drink of choice is herbal tea, regardless of how bad her day she likes to end it with a relaxing herbal tea; Caro on the other hand likes to wind down with a glass, or bottle, of wine, or a vodka or 3. They both face heartbreaking challenges in their personal lives as stay-at-home-mums and they are both in rocky marriages. Until the accident they both had one preteen daughter.
I think a lot of the reason Blame resonated so strongly with me is that I love a child on the autism spectrum and I understand that they are challenging, I understand the stress and the heartbreak for those who parent these special children; and yes, I believe that they are special children and they are a blessing. They are unique, as are all children, but often they challenge more than the blessing shines through.
Maya is at the extreme end of the spectrum, non-verbal and far from high functioning, but she is at school and there are therapies in place to help her communicate. Every child with autism is different, as is every parent who raises a child with autism, so you have to recognise that everyone copes differently and everyone’s perspective is different. Things that work with one child may not work with the next, things that help one child won’t help them all and there is no cure.
The words of understanding and empathy are easy to come by, every parent knows this is a tough job, but actual understanding is not so simple. The struggles are more intense and you don’t have the luxury of telling yourself that this is just a phase and before you know it they’ll be at the next stage of their development. For some kids with autism this phase is likely to be lifelong.
Caro has always been a wonderful support for Anna, she’s been a shoulder, a support, an ear that never judges and even a babysitter. All the while having struggles of her own. Caro only has one child, but not through lack of trying. A string of miscarriages and a stillbirth has left Caro soul shattered and alcohol dependent. She is still so heartsick at the thought of only having one child that she often forgets to be grateful for the happy hopeful daughter she already has.
One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the story is that in the wake of devastation for both of these women they are denied the one person they have always taken comfort from, each other.
A compelling, heart-breaking tale of the struggles of motherhood, the strength of friendship and the new beginnings sometimes offered by tragedy.
Blame is a book I loved and I think I would enjoy a re-read one day.
Blame is book #31 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.