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Leaving Things Unsaid

by Karen Barratt

Beth is a good woman: a teacher and a kind, sensitive step-mother. She is married to Ralph, a widower with two children. One day she receives a poison pen letter on light blue notepaper through the post. It suggests that Ralph is having an affair and shortly afterwards her suspicions are further raised by strange phone calls, a scribbled note and an unaccountable dry-cleaning ticket in his pocket. But when he suggests a family holiday in New York, she happily concurs, thinking it will dispel the burgeoning tensions between them. However, when they get there, a series of very strange coincidences serves to increase her apprehension and further undermine her trust in Ralph.

Barratt is brilliant at depicting the subtle interplay of word and gesture within relationships. By degrees, she reveals the complexity of the step-parent dynamics; the voracious nature of the green-eyed monster; and the unacknowledged and futile competition between Beth and Ralph's dead wife. Beth's attempts to mother the children is heart-breaking. She does her best to get it right, but the older one, Natalie, is a teenage girl with all the challenges that can involve, and Jerry, sweet young eight-year-old, has some sort of unspecified learning difficulty which presents its own problems. Communication between them all inevitably breaks down and, as the semblance of a happy family unravels with terrible consequences, we realise just what a dangerous business it is to leave things unsaid.

LEAVING THINGS UNSAID is a beautifully-told tale set in the steamy atmosphere of a New York summer and one that will keep you guessing to the very last page.

Published as an e-book by Endeavour Press and available on Kindle, 325pp.

Clare Chandler

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