Culture Street

Books

The Son-in-Law by Charity Norman

On July 15, 2013

By Sophia Whitfield

Charity Norman is swiftly making a name for herself as a writer of contentious issues. She is particularly adept at writing about families in crisis. Her background as a former criminal barrister, specialising in family law, has endowed her with a wealth of knowledge regarding the legal system giving her a well-rounded understanding of families attempting to navigate their way through this system whilst at breaking point.

Norman cleverly narrates her tale through three different characters, Scarlet, Joseph and Hannah, each one a different generation and each one impacted catastrophically by the death of one woman. Norman focuses on issues of mental illness, domestic violence and grief and the terrible toll these issues have on three individuals.

In the afternoon of an ordinary day Joseph kills his wife Zoe. Their three children Scarlet, Theo and Ben witness her murder. Since Joseph’s incarceration the children’s grandparents and parents of Zoe, Hannah and Frederick, have brought up their grandchildren. They have set aside all their retirement plans to care for these children; they are all that remain of their daughter Zoe, their only child.

Four years later Joseph is released from prison and is desperate to resume contact with his children. Over the years Hannah and Frederick have had to battle the demons that hover over their grandchildren, appeasing them when they are terrified by nightmares. It has taken time for them to find any sort of peace. They have finally settled into the security of their grandparent’s home, but no one has forgotten Zoe’s terrible death. She remains an unspoken fixture in this broken families life.

Joseph’s release and his requests to see his children stir up a hornet’s nest. Hannah and Frederick cannot forgive Joseph and are terrified of losing the only connection that remains to Zoe, their beloved daughter. A legal battle ensues during which the children are used as pawns. Scarlet, Theo and Ben find their loyalties constantly split as they drift between two homes unable to speak of one to the other.

The children led and largely cared for by 14-year-old Scarlet are interviewed by Mr Hardy, a family court appointed adviser, to establish their feelings towards their father as the court attempts to plan for their future care.

At the heart of this story is a family determined to care for three children who have endured total turmoil. How will the court decide what is best for them when two parties are determined not to interact with one another, both clearly hating the other? While Joseph has, under the law, paid the price for his actions, Zoe’s parents will need longer to forgive the man who killed their daughter.

Charity Norman covers complex issues with compassion in this visceral telling of a fractured family. She firmly earns a place as a writer to continue to watch and admire.

We are thrilled that Charity Norman will be joining us for a live author chat on our website on Friday August 9 at 1pm. We will keep you updated about the chat.

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