☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆
What It’s About:
Sasha is just about managing to hold her life together. She is raising her teenage son Zac, coping with an absent husband and caring for her ageing, temperamental and alcoholic mother, as well as holding down her own job. But when Zac begins to suspect that he has a secret sibling, Sasha realises that she must relive the events of a devastating night which she has done her best to forget for the past nineteen years.
Sasha’s mother, Annie, is old and finds it difficult to distinguish between past and present and between truth and lies. As Annie sinks deeper back into her past, she revisits the key events in her life which have shaped her emotionally. Through it all, she remains convinced that her dead husband Joe is watching and waiting for her. But there’s one thing she never told him, and as painful as it is for her to admit the truth, Annie is determined to go to Joe with a guilt-free conscience.
As the plot unfurls, traumas are revealed and lies uncovered, revealing long-buried secrets which are at the root of Annie and Sasha’s fractious relationship.
The novel spans several decades, telling the history of the Stein family from the turn of the twentieth century to the present day. Speaking of her inspiration for her novel, Deborah says; ‘My own mother was evacuated at the age of five during World War Two and my father was a young man working as an ARP warden. This novel is purely fictitious, but I wanted to explore the traumas that many ordinary people of the war generation suffered, experiences which would be quite unimaginable to many of us today and then to contrast them with the issues we all face in the modern day.’
What’s Left Unsaid is a highly emotional family drama/historical fiction. Told from three points of view, the story spans three generations of the Stein family. As the story unfolds, there is a little humor and a lot of hardship: parents who don’t want the horrors of their childhood known, parents who don’t want to relive their adult grief by sharing that secret pain, and parents who finally come to grips with who they are. Yes, basically, it is all the parents’ faults. Seriously though, Ms. Stone’s tale shows how it takes walking in another’s shoes to truly understand them.
What’s Left Unsaid starts with a confrontation between Sasha and her son Zac. The ugly tension between them was stressful to read. The teenager’s acrimony oozed out of every pore. From that scene forward, Sasha’s life gets more stressful as Zac stirs the pot that leads to family secrets and closeted skeletons spilling out.
What’s Left Unsaid is laid out in three acts. Ms. Stone’s writing quality and story telling shine through each part. She pours history into the stories of Sasha’s parents, Annie and Joe. Much of the family drama stems from Annie and Joe’s young lives. However, Sasha and her husband, Jeremy have a few secrets of their own. I found Jeremy’s secret to be unnecessary, as it didn’t add to the overall story.
There are many skeletons in the Stein family’s closets. Every generation has its own secrets. Those secrets explain some of the less-than-stellar behaviors, but does that excuse the behavior? I did feel empathy for each character’s hardships, but I didn’t feel that absolved their subsequent behavior. What’s Left Unsaid is a heart-wrenching read for those who love family dramas and historical fiction.
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