My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood
Kate Rafter is a high-flying war reporter. She’s the strong one. The one who escaped their father. Her younger sister Sally didn’t. Instead, she drinks.
But when their mother dies, Kate is forced to return home. And on her first night she is woken by a terrifying scream.
At first Kate tells herself it’s just a nightmare. But then she hears it again. And this time she knows she’s not imagining it.
What secret is lurking in the old family home?
And is she strong enough to uncover it . . . and make it out alive?
I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for this excellent novel. This book really appealed to me because it deals with journalism and the traumatic effect that covering stories in a war zone has on journalists. I have worked with journalists for years and I know from their experience how difficult it can be to be a foreign correspondent in the midst of dreadful atrocities.
The haunting images of children such as Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian boy whose body floated up on a Turkish beach and Omran Daqneesh, the wee boy who was the victim of an airstrike on the Syrian city of Aleppo are etched on my conscience, so how do the journalists who witness such atrocities on innocent children day in and day out, cope with such experiences?
The answer is that in many cases, they don’t cope at all well.
This is the backdrop to My Sister’s Bones, a thriller with real heart.
Kate Rafter is a senior war reporter, a role she has undertaken for 20 years. She left her family; a family long ago – a family who were slowly tearing themselves apart. Her father was an alcoholic who brutally beat her mother and would also take out his rage on Kate. Kate’s sister, Sally, has taken after her father; she drinks too much and her behaviour has alienated Sally’s daughter, Hannah. Kate and Sally had a brother, David – a toddler who died from drowning when Kate was only 3; an accident the family never really recovered from. Sally had Hannah when she was only 14 years old and Hannah, only 16, has now run away from her mother’s drinking.
Now Kate’s mother has died following the onset of dementia and Kate has come back from Syria to the family’s home in Herne Bay to settle her mother’s estate. She didn’t come back from Syria for the funeral and that adds to her overwhelming sense of guilt.
Kate is suffering from severe post-traumatic stress. Prescribed antipsychotics, she won’t take them because of the way they make her feel and she suffers from hallucinations and has nightmares despite the fact that she also doses herself up on sleeping pills. She can’t stop herself from remembering in particular the death of one little Syrian boy, Nidal whose death she witnessed at first hand. He haunts her dreams.
When Kate returns she is appalled by the terrible state that Sally is in; she is drinking herself to death and Sally’s husband, Paul is at his wit’s end. She sets about clearing the garden, an act that brings back memories of her mother and how much she loved her flowers. While she is in the garden, she hears a child’s laughter, but when she asks her neighbour, Fida – an Iraqi refugee, Fida tells her that she has no children and she must have heard children taking a shortcut through the fields at the back.
As the days pass, we learn more about Kate and her failed relationship with a married man; a miscarriage that devastated her. Kate is fragile and vulnerable and perhaps it is no wonder that she can hear a child crying in the night. She even thinks she sees a young boy in the garden, but when she tries to follow him, there is no-one there. Then after one late night foray into her neighbour’s garden, she returns to the house and finds that she is covered in blood.
Written in two parts, My Sister’s Bones is a tense psychological thriller that will leave you questioning what is real and how much is in the mind of a flawed and vulnerable woman. Not for a moment did I see what was coming and the conclusion of the book was both thrilling and heart-breaking. This is an astonishing debut thriller with revelations that will both shock and surprise the reader. Poignant and compelling this is a must read psychological thriller.
My Sister’s Bones is published by Penguin on 1st November 2016