The Promise Seed by Cass Moriarty was one of my favourite books of 2015. Her second book Parting Words also looks at family dynamics and personalities, but this time it is a little more middle class. Somebody recently said that stories about the middle class were not as interesting, but this proves otherwise, and shows that Moriarty can write across social groups.
Daniel Whitaker has died and left a will instructing his three adult children to deliver letters to a number of people, before they will inherit his estate.
Each sibling is quite different and has their own personal story which is revealed with depth as they look for and meet the people their father has asked them to give the letters to.
First born Richard has his own secret he is keeping from his family, and he then learns his father has kept many from all of them.
Second child Evonne feels her parents never accepted her sexuality or her partner, Libby. This has meant her relationship with them both has been strained.
Youngest daughter Kelly was an afterthought, born when her older siblings were teenagers. Her mother was ill after she was born and her father stepped up, so she had a close bond with him.
The novel deals with the effect of war on all who experience it, particularly the young, where violence begets violence and leaves people with demons and addictions. Daniel lied about his age to go to war but realised it was the biggest mistake of his life, seeing things that ‘no-one should ever have to see’, that he took to his grave. His ‘manhood had been forged through inconceivable times of conflict and hate’.
The book portrays the expectations of both children and of parents, and looks at the role reversal for children who end up caring for their parents in their later years. It also touches on infertility and bullying.
The siblings had been initially happy to ‘wallow in ignorance’, but then found that the letters provide them with a chance to ‘right a wrong, do something worthwhile’. This opened them up to new ways of thinking and softened them. They were given a gift by their father, ‘a glimpse inside his heart’, allowing them to have a greater understanding of him as a boy and a man. Along the way they had mixed feelings and found that things are not always black and white, but ultimately learned that forgiveness can bring relief and reward. What started out being about those that were receiving the letters ended up providing messages for the siblings delivering them.
This is another great book from Cass Moriarty, with heart and insight. I look forward to seeing more from her.