Thursday, 30 July 2015

Book Review: Things Fall Apart by Tracy Black


Synopsis (from the author): A Powerful and emotive story. Mandy McCabe is a single parent trying to cope with her three children. All she wants in life is to love, nurture and protect them. 
Without warning her world begins to crumble. 

For the sake of her family Mandy has to find the strength, knowledge and will-power to face her problems. With her world falling down around her, she is forced to take drastic measures, but will it be enough to save her family? 

Review: Things Fall Apart is a brutal and unflinching portrayal of life in Scotland in the 1980s. As I look back to my teenage years, it's easy to see that decade in anything other than a nostalgic haze. This is not helpful as we must look at things as they are.

Well. The first thing to say is that it is a family drama of the highest standard. The MC is Mandy McCabe, a mother who does her best to keep her family together, but as they descend into a vicious cocktail of drugs and alcohol (though the latter seems gentle in comparision as a method of abuse), things really do fall apart.

Part of the main issue I felt was the mother's often blanket denial that nothing was wrong, yet knowing it was. I am not a parent, but I can imagine protecting my kids from the outside world, yet might end up scolding them in private if they went off the rails.

It's hard not to think of one of the most famous portrayals of life - Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting. The book and the film gave us a flavour of Scotland, and it is far from the national pride displayed in the recent referendum. Scots are a proud people - as they should be,but drugs is not about pride - in fact it will take your pride and leave you with nothing.

As I read the book, I wondered why the author had given us such a hard read. Well, life is certainly not all sunshine, rabbits and rainbows. It's hard, and for some readers, the realism on offer amongst its pages may be a little too much to take. Having said that, if you do read this book, it's not likely to leave your mind for a while.

This is one of those books that hits you so hard, I think it is best to read once, take your time over it and absorb it all. I mean, Schindler's List is a very hard film for me to watch, and to date I have only seen it twice. Once in the cinema, once at home. Its dark, uncompromising tone meant that I only had to view it a few times to take it in.

After reading this book, I promise that you will do whatever you can to protect your kids and those around you from drugs.

The first third of the book has a lot of police involvement, the middle third a descent into madness and depravity caused by drug abuse, and yet, by the third segment, I began to feel that maybe this dark story could have a good ending. That doesn't mean I wasn't put through the ringer, because I was.

Ultimately I think this story is about hope - that through a terrible set of tragedies there is a possible sunrise that one can aim for. But I was genuinely shocked that the falls were not the final humiliation for some of the characters. Some of them just kept on falling.

As I was reading I was thinking 'come on, get a grip.' But they can't. How can they? Drugs offer a different reality. No wonder the outer effects are so hideous.

So why should you read this? I suppose because not every story needs a zombie, vampire, mermaid, or billionaire boss. Sometimes a book needs to bring us back to Earth. This one does, and whilst you wil find it hard to read (not because of the writing style - which is excellent) but because it examines so clearly the brutal truth about drug abuse. When it is happening under your nose as a parent, I cannot think of anything worse.

Read this unflinching drama. It will make you think that your next day, your next moment is one to treasure. When you are drowning in drugs, or those around you are, you really can't see the rainbow - not the real one anyway. But the fight is worth it.