Writing Heavy Subjects – The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait

Posted by Justine Solomons on 25 April 2013, in Recommendations

Buy The View on the Way Down.

Review by Julia Newhouse.

There are books that hit that you, because they are emotionally heavy. They move, they provoke, they touch you. These are the very adjectives that describe The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait: it is moving, provocative, and above all touching. The book’s prologue opens with a young family enjoying a day out at the beach. Baby Emma bounces on her mother’s knee, and Mum and Dad watch sons Kit and Jamie play along the shoreline. This is, in many ways a cookie cutter family, and the kind of scene of domestic happiness that many of us hope to share with those we love.

Part One of the novel, however, sets a very different scene. Picking the family up some years later, we slowly learn how this family was torn apart by the death of eldest son Kit, and the impact that this loss, and everything leading up to it has had on his younger brother Jamie, baby sister Emma and perpetually grief-stricken parents Rose and Joe. With the slow unveiling of how happy family A could morph into broken and sad family B, we learn about each of the characters, and the angle at which they are viewing this family tragedy. There is no one way people grieve, and beyond the singular fact of their loss, Kit’s death and the circumstances around it, have thrown a variety of extraneous factors into the mix. In The View on the Way Down, we see how the choices we make impact those around us, and ripple out over time. And as with all things emotional, it is impossible to know how this will happen once the deed is done.

It is surprising that The View on the Way Down is a debut novel. Rebecca Wait writes well, and has an ear for empathy, you can be mad at Rose, because of the way she fails her daughter, and yet hold no malice toward her as you also feel her plight as a mother who has lost a child. Families are a messy business, and never more so than when tragedy strikes. ‘If they could go back a few years - if they could undo everything that had happened, and start afresh - then that would be a miracle. Picking up the pieces afterwards wasn’t,’ observes Emma. This is a book about what happens after a tragedy, and how one tragedy can have a thousand splintered after-effects. This books reads easily, but isn’t so easy to digest. I have been ruminating on the passage that the title is taken from for days now, and am likely to keep on thinking of it for some time to come.

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