Culture Street

Books

Second Chances by Charity Norman

On July 15, 2012

By Sophia Whitfield

In the early hours of a cold New Zealand morning, a rescue helicopter airlifts a five-year-old boy with severe internal injuries to the nearest hospital.

The Hawke’s Bay Today reports that Finn, a five-year-old boy, sustained life-threatening injuries after falling from a balcony.

So begins Charity Norman’s compelling new novel which puts her firmly in the realms of Jodi Picoult. A former barrister, specialising in crime and family law, Norman has written a thought-provoking story that captures the familial bonds that can bind and tear families apart.

Martha McNamara wants to start her life afresh. Her husband has lost his job and with it the income that kept the family afloat. Now Martha is looking at having to sell their family home and move her teenage daughter to another school. The final straw comes when she receives a phone call from the local police telling her that Kit, her husband, is in the cells and ‘a little bit worse for wear’.

Instead of moving suburbs Martha moves her family to the other side of the world; her husband, teen daughter Sacha and five year old twin boys, Charlie and Finn, leave behind their familiar home in the UK bound for the rugged terrain and open spaces of New Zealand.

A year after moving to their new home Finn’s horrible accident occurs. Only Martha McNamara knows the truth behind the accident, but will she tell?

Narrated in the first person by Martha, the reader feels every bit of her terror. She takes us on a journey, looking back over the events of the past year that have led to the fateful moment of Finn’s accident.

At the first sight of their new home the McNamara family is in raptures:

“The house stood at the head of a valley which flowed down to the glimmering haze of the Pacific. One peak after another billowed away from us, sheep-grazed and bare. Inland, forest swayed and jostled to the edge of the drive.”

The initial euphoria of a holiday soon wanes as Martha, Kit and Sacha find it difficult to adjust to their new home, but the boys flourish. They learn to ride horses, care for a lamb and relish time spent in the native bush. New Zealand quickly becomes home for Charlie and Finn, but Sasha continues to struggle finding it difficult to make friends.

Norman describes in frank detail the dysfunctional McNamara family. Through Martha’s eyes we witness Kit’s battle with alcohol and Sasha’s desperate attempt to find her natural father as she rebels against Kit, her step-father, and the move that has taken her from her safe and familiar home to a wild and unpredictable country.

A dark secret soon envelops Martha’s family. Martha must decide between family loyalty and the safety of her own family.

Second Chances is a gripping dark tale full of angst, love and redemption. Norman writes brilliantly about family crisis and social issues, highlighting the detrimental consequences of drug use - the lies, the fall from grace and the psychosis.

At every point the reader feels for Martha, her terrible secret and the unraveling of everything she holds dear.

Second Chances comes after Charity Norman’s accomplished debut, Freeing Grace. With the release of her second novel she is sure to garner a following of dedicated readers.

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