Without a Backward Glance
Plume, Jul 2008, $14.00
On Christmas Eve 1967 in Melbourne Rosemarie McDonald tells her four preadolescent children (Deborah, Robert, James, and Meredith) she is stepping out to buy lights for the family yuletide tree. She never came home to the dismay of her four children. Instead, she flew to England; her kids were raised by their father, who from that night forward pretended his wife was dead; while Rosemarie never apparently took a backward glance to those she left behind who needed her.
Four decades later, James meets his mother. Rosemarie who has always felt guilty about deserting her children know she must either flee into the night again or try to make amends as best as she can. Her adult children though they have families of their own never recovered from her vanishing as they learned loved ones leave and how to conceal any hurts.
This family drama works because of the four adult children whose personalities differ as they coped with the abandonment in varying ways; four decades later each has big relationship issues as they never recovered from their mom leaving. Rosemarie is terrific as she tries to hide her guilt and remorse from James, but fails. Although her spouse suffering from elderly dementia is somewhat removed from a confrontation with his kids and Rosemarie over welcoming back the person who betrayed them, Kate Veitch provides a strong relationship tale of a shattered family who may find it is too late to reconcile as defense mechanisms have become forty year habits.