Title: Before I Let You Go
Author: Kelly Rimmer
Heroin addiction is not usually a subject that would attract me but Kelly Rimmer’s voice is amazing, and from the opening page, I was hooked.
Before I Let You Go is a beautiful story about two sisters – one who overcomes a harsh upbringing: Zoe, and one who doesn’t: Annie. It insightfully delineates the repercussions, both psychological and material, for loved ones when one family member fails to gain a foothold in the world.
Zoe, the older sister, tells her story; and the younger sister Annie writes hers in her diary: in alternating chapters.
The novel starts with a cry for help. Heroin-addicted Annie has fallen pregnant in Alabama, which has draconian, senseless laws that incarcerate pregnant women for injecting heroin. This is despite the huge body of medical evidence that shows addicts cannot control their addiction; and that the law results in worse outcomes for babies and mothers because the women are afraid to seek medical help.
Through Annie’s diary, we learn that just because a person is raised in the same family, does not mean they will have the same experiences. And, if those experiences are bad, the individual is not always willing to share them, not even with their closest family.
Kelly Rimmer’s empathy for her characters is breathtaking and her psychological characterisation startling. Zoe is the archetypal “save the world” older sister in a dysfunctional family hit by tragedy. Annie is the hapless victim of a harsh society who unsuccessfully tries to manage the emotional fall-out on her own. She seeks the support of drugs to aid this psychological containment, and pays dearly for her self-soothing.
A fantastic book for book clubs, it offers a feast for discussion and deftly handles a difficult subject in a manner that makes reading easy. To plagiarise Goldilocks, the emotional tenor is ‘just right’.