Red Letter Day tells the story of a grief-stricken mother who decides to go on a special journey to try and find peace.
What did I think?:
There are a few things I am really enjoying about this short story collection by Kate Mosse. The first one is the author notes she pops in after each story which lets the reader know what inspired her to write it, where the idea for the story first came from and why she chose to set it where she did. Occasionally I do like my stories to have a bit of mystique and decide things about it for myself but for some reason with this collection, the author notes really work and didn’t spoil the magic by any means.
Red Letter Day is quite a sad little tale, focusing on a grieving young mother who lost her young son three years ago when he was a baby and has never recovered from the tragedy, despite the usual cliches she is being subjected to by well-meaning friends i.e. “time is a great healer.” She feels a great connection to a village near the Pyrenees in France which has a horrific history that involved a lot of violence and bloodshed in medieval times. The decision for her is an easy one. She resolves to go to the castle where many years ago, hundreds of men and women walked into a fire rather than renounce their faith. After considering it for a while, and coming upon the knowledge that she had an ancestor there at that particular time, she is certain that this is the only way she will find peace. I think we can perhaps guess what she is planning to do?
I quite enjoyed this story for the most part and although I felt terribly sorry for our lead female character, I didn’t feel like I connected with her as much as I would have liked. Perhaps finding out more of her back story would have helped but I felt a strange detachment to her and what she was planning to do. What about her family – parents, husband/partner, friends? Were they even a factor in her deciding to take this path? I did however love the historical fiction part of the story and it reminded me very much of the author’s novels Labyrinth and Citadel, told with as much passion and knowledge as I have come to expect from the writings of Kate Mosse. She is also a wonder at setting a scene and although this story isn’t super-creepy in any way, there is something vastly unsettling and tragic about it, especially when you consider the subject matter and I certainly wanted to know what was going to happen at the end, even if it was slightly predictable.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors
Since the death of her newborn baby, lawyer-turned-stay-at-home mom Sarah Shaw has been struggling to keep it together for her law professor husband and two young sons. With her husband burying himself in his career and her friendships all having withered, she is lost in a private world of grief. Then one day, walking in LA, Sarah s heart catches at the sight of a young homeless woman pushing a baby in a stroller and saving them becomes her mission. An unlikely bond grows between Sarah and the mother, Josie, whose pride and strained relationship with her own mother prevent her from going home to Oakland. Through her friendship with Josie, Sarah slowly learns that those we love are never far, even in death and that sometimes it is the people we set out to save who save us. Shelter Us speaks to the quiet joys and anxieties of parenthood, and illuminates the place all parents know: that shadowy space between unconditional love and fear of unbearable loss.
What did I think?:
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, so thank you very much to She Writes Press for the opportunity to read a novel that had me instantly intrigued by the synopsis. As the story begins our main character Sarah Shaw and her husband Robert are struggling to deal with their inner turmoil after losing their baby daughter at only a few weeks of life. They have managed to have two healthy baby boys, Oliver and Izzy but Sarah is constantly petrified that something terrible is going to happen that will take them away from her as well. Her husband, Robert, is sensitive to her pain and is trying to mask his own the best that he can by throwing himself into his work. This however, has stay at home mother Sarah feeling even more pressurised to “get over it,” and continue her life – a difficult thing for her to imagine doing when she keeps seeing her baby girl’s face everywhere and doubting her skills at motherhood.
Then one day, on a very difficult trip out with the boys she sees a young woman pushing a pram with a baby inside. The woman is homeless and Sarah’s heart immediately goes out to her plight. On impulse, she takes one of the boy’s lunch boxes and chases after the woman so that she can give her the little food that she has available. At home, Sarah cannot get the woman and her child out of her head and wants to help her find a way out of her situation. When she suggests to Robert that perhaps they might be able to house the woman and child she is told that on no terms would this be a possibility. Sarah is not dissuaded by Robert’s attitude and is sure that she must be able to help in some way. She begins to form a relationship with the woman – Josie and her little boy whose malnourished appearance for his age breaks her heart. However, how far is Sarah prepared to go to help her new friend? And will the consequences of her actions affect her already fragile relationship with her husband?
This novel was a pleasant surprise on so many levels for me. I love an author who is not afraid to tackle tough or sensitive issues and I thought the death of Sarah’s baby was handled absolutely beautifully. It will hopefully give some comfort to those poor parents who have actually gone through this horrific event and new parents who are nervous about their own parenting skills. I also enjoyed reading about the relationship between Sarah and Robert, both how they deal with their own personal grief and how they respond to each other. The author surprised me often (and I do like to be surprised) as at first, I assumed this was a novel about parenthood and how it feels to lose a child. It is so much more than that. The story takes an unexpected turn when Sarah responds to Josie’s call for help, never imagining that during this process she will be tested in ways she could never have believed. The characters are fabulous, flawed, brilliant and most importantly HUMAN. I didn’t really have a favourite, every one seemed to bring something different and fresh to the table and I thoroughly enjoyed discovering what they had to offer. This is the author’s debut novel and I feel that Laura Nicole Diamond is definitely an author to watch out for in the future!
The lovely people at She Writes Press have authorised a giveaway on bibliobeth for one lucky person to see what Shelter Us is all about for themselves. Enter below and good luck!