by Suzanne Ashmore
Just in case readers hesitate to read Meltwater because of the subject matter I want to state right at the start that it is a fantastic read and worth every minute you give it.
Suzanne Ashmore manages the sensitive nature of the novel in a way that keeps readers empathetic without being overwhelmed. She does this by focusing on Elizabeth rather than her abuser and manages readers emotions. She gives enough detailed description to enable us to understand what is happening but leaves us to finish the image she has drawn. This allows readers to breathe and to fill in the gaps with their own narrative.
There is not a word too many so the editing is great and the choice to deliver it as a series of vignettes was perfect.
The prose's lyricism and beauty reinforces the advantage of writing the novel as a series of snatched memories.
Consider this randomly selected example: ‘It was I, Beatrice, who walked away from Elizabeth into the desert that day, disappearing into the steamy throat of the mountain. (95)
There are many more examples.
Beatrice is one of Elizabeth’s thirteen personalities. Each one has a voice which is treated respectfully. Again it is testament to Suzanne Ashmore’s writing skills that she keeps each personality separated. Without making an issue of the event that triggers the formation of a new personality or Elizabeth’s regression into an established one the reader is seamlessly taken into this new person's world. There is never any confusion as to which one is dominant. When dealing with so many entities this is quite an achievement.
With child abuse being so much in the headlines these days this is a timely book. It offers no solutions simply recounts one person’s struggle. I could only admire Suzanne Ashmore’s courage; first in surviving her father’s abuse and then in telling the story as she does, in a matter-of-fact way without any hint of seeking sympathy from the reader. Although it is written as a novel the reader is also aware the story is based on fact.
If I am to be picky the only thing I would comment on is the shift from Elizabeth as primary narrator to Helen, Elizabeth’s therapist. This felt just a bit clumsy and in a way contrived. The change in voice and focus broke the flow and, while interesting, the book's tone moves from a personal story to that of a report of a series of therapy sessions. During that time I lost contact with Elizabeth with whom I was fully invested.
However, that is a small point. What is key is that, as a reader, I continued to follow Elizabeth’s heroic journey from a horrendous world of inner conflict to a place where she, her husband, Ben, and children could live relatively untroubled lives.
The explanation for the title is brilliant. So it is worth reading to the end to find out why this wonderful book is called Meltwater.
Congratulations to Suzanne Ashmore for crafting such an engaging story from a difficult topic and also making it so accessible.
Author: Suzanne Ashmore
Publisher: Mary Egan Publishing