The well-worn and well-tested saying of “It’s an ill wind that blows no good” echoes resolutely and profoundly in stellar Australian author and psychologist, Kylie Ladd’s, character-driven and salubrious novel, I’ll Leave You With This.
Taking place predominantly in the frenzied yet dignified metropolis of Sydney in the years 2018 and 2019, this narratively rich novel centres around the disparate, often loosely connected, lives of the four O’Shea sisters.
Allison, 46, is the high-achieving and at-times dismissive eldest sibling, and a well-respected Chief Obstetrician at a Sydney hospital. She is the main income earner in her marriage to Jason, who works half days as a physiotherapist and spends the bulk of his time organizing the household and looking after seven year old twins, Martin and Eliot and, in the initial stages of the book, their rambunctious daschund dog, John Thomas.
Next daughter, Bridie (45) is a film director who hasn’t worked for ten years. She thought she might be the next ‘big thing’ after her hit movie, Black Box. However, she spends her days at a loose end at her palatial North Shore home. Husband, Tom, devilishly handsome, is an actor looking to be on the cusp of being a movie star.
Clare O’Shea, 40, is a caring and compassionate nurse and married to Sophie, a lawyer. Successive and unsuccessful IVF attempts have left them both ardently drained, both emotionally and financially.
Emma, 33, is the musical director at Crossfire, a large church she attends. She finds solace in God.
Despite leading largely separate and markedly diverse lives, the four O’Shea sisters are forever united in their grief over the death of their much-loved brother, Daniel, murdered in 2015 when Daniel (a fashion designer) was 35.
The novel weaves, meanders and alternately soars and deeply plumets emotionally as we follow the hard truths and intricate nuances present in the O’Shea sisters’ lives. When Clare has the (not unanimously supported) idea of contacting Daniel’s organ recipients, will she be opening up a unwanted pandora’s box? Will the sisters ever agree with eachother or forever view the world and live in it so distinctly differently that they can’t truly bond?
Why did Emma abruptly leave her cherished position, playing the cello, with the Melbourne Opera Orchestra? What does Bridie have up her sleeve? What became of the sisters’ and Daniel’s parents?
Kylie has gifted us a stunning novel, peppered with wisdom, insight and intelligence. Firmly embedded in the pages of ‘I’ll Leave You With This’ are ,at-times, devastating instances of heartache and human suffering. At-times, though, there are tendrils of hope, as we encounter the indomitability of the human spirit. The novel expertly covers themes of grief, infertility, self-harm and sexual assault.
Bravo Kylie! You have written for we, the reader, a phenomenally successful examination of the human psyche and condition. Human frailty is shown and explored throughout the novel both forensically and truthfully. The undeniable paradox that we humans may sometimes suffer much, yet also be able to soar to great heights, is eloquently explored. I loved this book and can’t wait to read what Kylie writes next.