Reviewed on 26th March 2019

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

Genre: Contemporary / Fiction / Women's Fiction
If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman Synopsis

Audrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.

As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman Review

A poignant and emotional story of a family divided by the past

I approached this book with a degree of trepidation. It was reported to have made Marian Keyes cry so it was clearly not going to be an easy, light-hearted read. Armed with a box of tissues and a big bar of chocolate, I took the plunge and I’m very glad that I did. It’s beautifully written, heart-breaking and compelling. I was very quickly drawn in and felt emotionally connected with the characters. I read this book in one sitting with tears pouring down my face (not good when you’re reading on the train!).

Most families have their share of secrets, feuds and unreasonable behaviour. If you have a strained, fractured relationship with one of your family members, this book may just make you reassess the situation and offer an olive branch. It’s the story of a family torn apart by a misunderstanding, a feud which lasts for almost three decades and the misery and heartache that infects all of those directly involved, as well as the people around them.

Audrey’s daughters, Jess and Lily are estranged. Something happened when they were children and Jess hasn’t forgiven Lily. Audrey has tried several times to heal the rift but Jess is unrelenting. What Lily did is unforgivable and Jess will not hear of reconciliation under any circumstances.

Now, as Audrey deals with terminal illness, she wants nothing more than to see her daughters be friends again but the odds seem stacked against that happening. She has two granddaughters born just six weeks apart who are not allowed to meet each other. Audrey’s efforts to bring her family together have only served to make matters worse.

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The two sisters’ lives have gone in very different directions. Lily has a successful career and a millionaire husband while Jess is a single mother struggling to make ends meet. The disparity between their fortunes, although not the source of Jess’s anger, does nothing to dilute her resentment towards her older sister.

There are times in the book when it’s hard to feel sympathy for Jess. The grudge she has carried for almost 30 years has destroyed her family. Her mother is dying but Jess still cannot bring herself to try to forgive her sister. However, when the reason for Jess’s anger was revealed, it took my breath away (and restarted the ugly crying that I had just managed to get under control!).

“If Only I Could Tell You” is narrated by Audrey, Jess and Lily and each character has a distinctive voice that allows you to become completely absorbed in their story. It’s beautifully written and although there is an overriding sense of loss, grief and sadness, the book has enough tender, uplifting moments to carry you through.

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