All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: What Matters Most by Dianne Maguire

on May 20, 2015

What Matters MostWhat Matters Most
Dianne Maguire
Harper Collins AUS
2015, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

The lives of pediatrician Mia Sandhurst and teenager Rachel Hooper cross when Rachel is brought into hospital after a suspected overdose. When one of the staff find incriminating bruising on Rachel’s body, Mia begins to suspect that the teenager has been raped and possibly subjected to some long term abuse. Rachel however, refuses to acknowledge their concerns and instead claims her injuries are from riding her horse.

Whilst attempting to get to the bottom of Rachel’s story, Mia is also dealing with a personal crisis. Her husband has become distant and withdrawn and Mia has her suspicions confirmed that he’s having an affair. When he packs his bags and leaves, Mia is reluctant to believe that this is truly the end, until she finds out that there’s some discrepancies in their bank accounts. Mia must fight to keep her family’s beloved holiday home on the Fleurieu Peninsula on the beautiful south coast of Australia, something she came into the marriage with but may lose half of because of the longevity of their union.

Rachel’s older brother Tim discovers in the most horrifying way what is really going on with his sister but she swears him to secrecy. The weight of this secret is heavy on his shoulders and he desperately wants the truth to be uncovered so that Rachel might begin to be able to heal. When she again ends up in hospital, finally Mia is able to uncover the truth and move forward with getting Rachel the help she desperately needs and removing her from a truly toxic and terrible situation.

This story is an unflinching look at child abuse in one of its most horrifying forms. Rachel is a teenager who is brought in to hospital in a critical condition after being found in a bathroom unconscious. Her family immediately sweep aside the idea that it may have been a suicide attempt or that Rachel might have had any reason at all for wanting to take her own life. Despite the bruising one of the staff discover when they are examining her, it remains emphatically stated that Rachel is just fine when pretty much everyone can see that the last thing Rachel is, is fine.

I found that as a mother, I had a huge issue with the way Rachel’s mother behaves in this story. I understand that there’s the automatic response that no, this could not be happening to your child and insistence that you would know, if it were. But quite frankly, there are a million stories out there that confirm that no, you probably wouldn’t. And if a hospital staff member had come to me with stories of suspicious bruising on my teenage daughter and requested a full medical, I would give my consent immediately. Even when the children’s protective services visit Rachel’s family home after she’s discharged from hospital and inform Rachel’s mother that she must take her daughter to a doctor or face having her taken from her, she dithers and puts it off and gets aggressive and basically, while she’s doing all this stuffing around, Rachel is continuing to face horrific abuse. I think it just goes on for too long. The signs are glaringly obvious, Tim (who has the unfortunate situation of knowing what is going on but been sworn to secrecy) is practically forcing her to comply with the authorities and still she’s taking so damn long to do anything. Denial might be the automatic response for parents, no it could never happen to my child – but if you’re right, then what is there to lose by getting her seen to? They try to sweep everything about Rachel’s desperate acts under the carpet, oh just let her go, she needs to be in her room. What she needs is help and probably if it wasn’t for Tim and Mia, she would’ve succeeded in what she attempted to do to herself. I understand Rachel’s desperation to keep it a secret – she’d probably been groomed from a very young age. I felt sorry for Tim but I did actually commend is loyalty to his sister and his wonderfully brave attempts to protect her from further abuse. I don’t even feel that Rachel’s mother had her best interests at heart by refusing the medical, it mostly felt like she resented being told she had to take her daughter to have one and was dragging her heels as long as she could.

Despite my issues with the actions of Rachel’s mother, I thought Rachel’s story was heartbreaking and told very well. The reader was able to get a very clear sense of Rachel and what this abuse was doing to her state of mind. She had gone through so much and I think the story was very good at making this clear and giving the reader enough to truly horrify them but not so much that it became unbearable to continue. Being able to put yourself in Rachel’s shoes was a terrible but necessary experience to be able to really come to terms with how it had affected her and how deeply. It’s also good at showing that just people finding out and having the abuser stopped isn’t enough. It will likely take Rachel years and years of therapy to be able to cope, if she ever will be able to, with what happened to her.

I was less interested in the ins and outs of Mia’s story, most of which seemed like one big cliché – the husband having the affair with the younger, richer woman. Him siphoning the money out of their joint savings and then aggressively going after the beach house that came from Mia’s family in the settlement. Even the ending, which I guessed would happen basically as soon as the affair was revealed to Mia. And then the suitors that began to vie for Mia’s attention the second her husband left, it all just felt really predictable and a lot of the book was devoted to it where the strengths were really with Rachel and her experiences and how that had affected her state of mind.


Book #91 of 2015


What Matters Most is book #37 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

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