Blog Tour/Book Review: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer


I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer.  Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my invitation to join the tour.

Do check out the posts by the other great book bloggers taking part in the tour who have been giving the book rave reviews. For example:

Berit at Audio Killed The Bookmark called it ‘a beautifully crafted story’
Kaisha at The Writing Garnet described it as a ‘beautiful, beautiful book’
Emma at Shaz’s Book Blog confessed the book left her ‘an emotional wreck’

The Things We Cannot SayAbout the Book

Inspired by the author’s family history, a searing page-turner of war, family secrets and a love to defy all odds, from the Top Ten Australian bestselling author of Before I Let You Go.

2019 – Life changed beyond recognition for Alice when her son, Eddie, was born with autism spectrum disorder. She must do everything to support him, but at what cost to her family? When her cherished grandmother is hospitalised, a hidden box of mementoes reveals a tattered photo of a young man, a tiny leather shoe and a letter. Her grandmother begs Alice to return to Poland to see what became of those she held dearest.

WWII – Alina and Tomasz are childhood sweethearts. The night before he leaves for college, Tomasz proposes marriage. But when their village falls to the Nazis, Alina doesn’t know if Tomasz is alive or dead.

2019 – In Poland, separated from her family, Alice begins to uncover the story her grandmother is so desperate to tell, and discovers a love that bloomed in the winter of 1942. As a painful family history comes to light, will the struggles of the past and present finally reach a heartbreaking resolution?

Format: ebook (352 pp.)    Publisher: Headline Review
Published: 7th March 2019 Genre: Contemporary/Historical Fiction, Romance

Purchase Links*  ǀ  ǀ (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Things We Cannot Say on Goodreads

My Review

The book alternates between the stories of two women– Alina and Alice – and two timelines – the present day and Second World War Poland.

For me, the storyline told from the point of view of Alina was the more compelling and powerful.  Her experiences and those of her family and community as Poland comes under the thrall of the Nazis are dramatically described.  The day-to-day realities of food shortages, persecution (and worse) of Jews, the constant fear of reprisals and the agonies of not knowing what has happened to loved ones were brilliantly conveyed. I can’t be the only reader who experienced a chill down their spine when the relevance of the location of Alina’s family’s farm became clear.  Alina’s story is also a deeply moving love story.

In the modern day story, I admired Alice’s devotion to her son, Eddie and her desire to fulfil the wishes of her seriously ill maternal grandmother, but found Alice’s certainty that her way of caring for her son was the only way less easy to empathise with.  At times, the two stories felt separate apart from the connection of Alice’s search for the answers to her grandmother’s questions about her family’s past.  This quest takes Alice to Poland in an attempt to uncover the truth but also becomes a voyage of self-discovery for Alice that started to endear me to her as she becomes more willing to trust others.

However, the more I thought about the book, the more I was drawn to the idea of communication – or the inability, unwillingness or failure to communicate – as a shared theme of the two stories.  There’s the obvious connection that Alice’s grandmother  has been robbed of the power of speech by a stroke and that Alice’s son, Eddie, has communication difficulties as a result of his autism spectrum disorder.  As it turns out they are both able to utilise the same specialist application to overcome this.

I was also struck by other ways in which the title of the book is reflected in the story.  There are things that cannot be spoken of because they are too terrible to describe.  For example, Emilia, Tomasz’s sister, who has witnessed horrifying things but finds no outlet to express her thoughts about them because her family forbid it, finds release in her long talks with Alina.  There are things for which no words are needed because gestures or actions suffice.  And there are unspoken thoughts which should really not be expressed aloud.  For example, when during an angry exchange in a fractious call between Alice and husband, Wade, she admits ‘It’s the vodka talking.  It’s the disappointment speaking’. Then there’s Eddie, who occasionally demonstrates unexpected  perception about other’s feelings and reflects back to others phrases he associates with them.

However, looking at it from the opposite point of view, the book suggests there are things that must be said – if you like the things we cannot not say.  At one point in the torturous process of trying to make sense of her family’s wartime history Alice, trying to persuade herself to carry on, wonders, ‘What happens when stories like theirs are lost?  What happens when there’s no-one left to pass your experience on to, or you just can’t bring yourself to share it?’.

The Things We Cannot Say is a powerful, moving story about love, family, sacrifice and the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.  I received an advance review copy courtesy of publishers, Headline Review, and Anne Cater at Random Things Tours.

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In three words: Emotional, powerful, thought-provoking

Try something similar…The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford (read my review here)

Kelly Rimmer Author PictureAbout the Author

Kelly Rimmer is the USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction novels including Me Without You, The Secret Daughter, When I Lost You, A Mother’s Confession and her most recent release, Before I Let You Go. She lives in rural Australia with her husband and children.

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