Thank you to HQ for the chance to read and review this novel as part of the blog tour.
How far would you go to keep your family safe?
Angie Watts had the perfect ordinary family. A new home. A beloved husband. Three adored children.
But Angie’s happy life is shattered when her son Liam falls in with the wrong crowd. And when her son’s bad choices lead to the murder of her husband, it’s up to Angie to hold what’s left of her famly together.
Her son is missing. Her daughter is looking for help in dangerous places. And Angie is fighting to keep a roof over their head.
But Angie is a mother. And a mother does anything to protect her children – even when the world is falling apart…
MY REVIEW :
This book surprised me. Instead of a more gritty book about a family dealing with the initial aftermath of a murder, it is a timely social commentary about poverty and the working poor as well as a story about family. I went through a rainbow of emotions while reading and couldn’t stop thinking about it when I wasn’t reading.
The story starts with the brutal murder of Steve Watts. He’s in the wrong part of town furiously searching for his wayward teenage son Liam after finding his five year old with a discarded syringe. He no longer cares about the consequences, this was the line in the sand and he’s going to do something about the trouble Liam is bringing to their door. We then jump forward a few years to where Angie Watts is trying, and failing, to keep her family afloat in a sea of debt and desperation. We then follow as Angie searches for a solution and tries to keep her family together while looking for her missing son and trying to find answers to her husband’s death.
“…the sun slipped its cover of cloud, dazzling him, throwing a rich golden glow over the street, as though to paint this purgatory into something glorious.”
This was the first time I’d read a book by this author and I was struck by the beauty of her writing. Even when describing the most awful things she manages to insert something alluring. For instance in the prologue, amongst the tension is striking scene setting that is at odds with the surrounding degradation. She captures anguish in a way that is raw yet beautiful and each character and storyline is full of depth.
Angie was a well written character who was easy to like and relate to. She’s described by those who know her as a beautiful person inside and out. She’s a dedicated mother to her three children and despite the mistake she feels she made with Liam immediately after Steve’s death, she’s never given up on him through the many years of trouble he’s brought to their door. She’s the kind of mother who will really do anything for her children and loves them unconditionally. She and her younger sister Emma are so close that they even work together running an organisation called Bridging the Gap, which works to help those who’ve run into hardship enter back into society. Even though Angie has seen through her work that anyone can fall on hard times, she is still embarrassed and reluctant to let anyone know how much she’s struggling or ask them for help. It was heartwarming to read how so many people from all walks of life banded together to help a person in need.
“They’d had no idea until it was already too late just how cruelly Liam was being exploited, manipulated and brainwashed by forces so evil that neither Angie nor Steve knew how to combat them…By the time he was fourteen they’d lost all contact with the sweet, innocent boy he’d been. He’d behaved as though he despised them.”
Throughout the book there are flashbacks to before Steve’s death and we learn more about Liam and how he ended up getting in with the wrong crowd. Having your eleven-year-old be brought home by the police must be awful and as a parent of two teenagers my heart broke for Angie as I read her heartbreak and helplessness as she watched the kind, loving son she knew disappear and someone else take his place. Her refusal to give up on him endeared her to me even more and I was rooting for Liam to be found safe and the family to be reconciled in the end.
“There are no safeguards against things changing in your life”
Home Truths is a sobering and important book. It is a reminder that poverty, debt and homelessness can happen to anyone at any time. Anyone can have unforeseen events occur that start them on a downward spiral that they just can’t seem to pull themselves out of. It is a commentary on social issues such as poverty, benefits and how the government relies on food banks and charities to help those in need instead of tackling the problems that lead them to need that assistance. While it focuses on many different kinds of people that are struggling to make ends meet, it’s main focus is on people like Angie who are part of the so-called working poor. Even people working more than one job can find themselves unable to pay all the bills and feed their family. The sociological and moral questions raised in this book are important ones that need to be answered.
Reading this brought back memories of my own experiences with this issue. I’ve been the working poor and also been on the side of waiting for benefits for months after illness forced me to stop working. In both situations when I asked for help paying bills and buying food I was told to borrow from family and friends and go to a food bank and was only saved from crippling debt and homelessness by being blessed with parents who lived nearby and were in a position to help me out. Not everyone has that. But I’ll never forget the humiliation of not being able to pay for my bus fare or my son’s food and worrying about unpaid bills while I waited for my benefits to come through. At the same time I was dealing with the stress of having to fight for those benefits and prove my illness, which is also humiliating. It was about four years before things were sorted and I could stand on my own two feet. You don’t forget that feeling and even years later I’m enraged how this is still happening and that people are still forced to live this way.
I would recommend this book if you want something beautifully written and emotive that also makes you think. There were a few times I found the story predictable such as the love story, how a certain person became her guardian angel and what happens to Grace when she tries to help her mother. But none of these times took away from the enjoyment or quality of the story or felt like it was superfluous to the plot. I’m sure I will be reading more of this author’s work in the future.
Available to buy from your favourite book seller.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Susan Lewis is the bestselling author of over forty books across the genres of family drama, thriller, suspense and crime. She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol during the 1960s. Following periods of living in Los Angeles and the South of France, she currently lives in Gloucestershire with her husband James, stepsons Michael and Luke, and mischievous dogs Coco and Lulu.
To find out more about Susan Lewis: