From the very first page of Nicole Trope’s sixth novel Blame, I was completely hooked.
Two mothers who are friends are hurled into a horrific situation that can have no happy ending. Anna is the mother of Maya, a severely Autistic child who has reached the age of eleven and has complex care needs for her challenging behaviours. Caro, is the mother of Lex who is also eleven, and her child is completely normal, but Caro has her own demons to face and her own private pain to drown.
The two women become friends at a new parents’ clinic when warm-hearted Caro realises that perfectly groomed Anna is at breaking point with her unique child. They immediately form a warm bond that grows over the years. Caro is always there for those times when the growing Maya’s behaviours become more violent and Anna becomes even more stressed and more isolated. Her husband Keith is busy working and cannot offer much support with their daughter. However, Anna is aware that Caro is drinking more. Caro’s husband Geoff and her daughter Lex are also increasingly concerned as to the escalation of her drinking.
Blame opens with both women attending the local police station. The fact that they are not together and are seeing different detectives leads us into the shocking fact that Maya has been killed. How? Caro ran into her outside her mother’s gate. Yes, she had been drinking, but why had usually cautious Anna allowed Maya to rush out onto the street. Who is to blame? The mother or the friend?
The book now becomes ‘unputdownable’. Every alternate chapter deals with the two women as they are carefully questioned by police. The reader follows each story as each woman relates it. But both of them seem to be hiding something. Caro, her escalating drinking problem and the symptoms she is experiencing from her forced detox. And what is Anna hiding? Surely any woman who had a child with a severe intellectual disability is entitled to be honest about the fact that she found caring for the child extremely difficult. But why does she feel guilty for saying that?
The thread of blame is carefully woven throughout this book. I personally have worked with children on the far end of the Autism Spectrum Disorder. I felt for Anna. Is Anna to blame for finding her child so hard to care for with the relentless vigilance and self-sacrifice required? Is Caro exhausted from offering support to this demanding friendship? Why is Caro blaming herself for the death? Wasn’t it an accident?
This very clever book examines relationships, secrets, loss, hidden guilt and fear. Who is to blame for the child’s death? The mother for a few exhausted seconds of inattention, or the woman who came rushing to her friend’s aid after a phone call for help. To tell you more would ruin the story and as it rushes to its gripping conclusion, the reader is left to define for themselves the nature of ‘blame’. A wonderful book and well worth the read. I will be seeking out more of Nicola Trope’s work.
Blame by Nicola Trope is available from Dymocks.
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