Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty is a dark and powerful novel. It illuminates a parent’s worst fear; that of losing a child. Laura doesn’t lose her daughter Betty to an illness but in a hit and run accident. Laura’s life is sent into a tailspin that grows increasingly more out of control when she learns that the hit and run is being ruled as an accident. How could it be an accident when she no longer has her precious daughter in her arms? It isn’t good enough for Laura and she begins to plot her revenge.
When Laura opens the door to the police officers she knows it can’t be good news – it never is, is it? When she hears the news she just can’t wrap her mind around what they are trying to tell her. Even as they take her to the hospital to see her daughter she still isn’t really comprehending what has happened. Reality does hit though and then the grief consumes her. For Laura her children Betty and Rees have been her everything since her divorce from her husband David but especially Betty as she was nine years old and Laura’s co-conspirator against David’s new wife Chloe. As the days, weeks, and months pass Laura is completely consumed by the loss of Betty. Along the way she learns little bits that the driver was speeding and this drives her into even more of a rage.
This whole novel is consuming. It really is amazing how much information the author managed to relay in this book without it ever feeling to be too much. We learn about Laura’s childhood and her struggles with her sick mother. We get a view of the relationship that Laura and David have had since they first met and the pain and struggles that happened when David strayed. Most of all though we realize that Betty, even more than Rees, was Laura’s everything and when she loses her she loses a huge part of herself as well – a part that can’t be put back together. Laura goes through the normal phases of grief but the one thing that manages to bring her out of herself again is the thought that she will get her revenge on the person that took away her daughter. This alone gives her the will to go on.
One thing I do have to say though because I’m still shaking my head at it is that the author chooses to take a turn in the book that totally baffled me. It was completely unnecessary and I don’t at all feel it had a place in the book. I would love to one day find out the motivation for the scene in question and anyone that has read the book knows what I’m talking about. I am not however letting that one scene color my thoughts on this book because in truth I think it’s an amazing book that really portrays the raw grief and emotion of not only losing a child but of trying to move on with life after that loss. This is not a happy book by any means. It is a book that deals with loss and the powerful feelings that many have of needing someone to blame; oftentimes including yourself. The author switches from Before and After the incident and I liked that method with the book as it gave me insight into who Laura and her husband David were before they were divorced.
Whatever You Love is an emotional roller-coaster of stories. I know I keep using the word consumed but that is how I felt about this book. I couldn’t put it down. I really liked Laura except for one small part in the book but that wasn’t her fault. You could feel her grief and pain. She was just completely real and I appreciated that nothing was sugar coated in this novel. I have to mention the author’s writing as well – it is incredible. She draws you into the world she has created and you just can’t help but feel as though you are there and experiencing the emotions and pain yourself. Now I guess for some this would be a hard book to read and that’s a decision a reader would obviously make as the description itself warns you of the death of a child but I don’t shy away from books like these and never have. I think this book has a lot to offer in terms of a book club pick as well – there’s marriage, children, death of a child, grief – too many topics to even list. It’s hard to say I enjoyed a book where something as devastating as the death of a child occurs but I’m sure avid readers such as myself know what I mean. It’s a novel that will grab you and not let go and will still have you thinking about it long after you close the covers of the book.
I read Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty for her book tour with TLC Book Tours. Check out the other tour stops to see what others are saying about the book. You can also find Louise on her website and you can purchase Whatever You Love here in the US and here in Canada.
Source: Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours and Harper Perennial. No compensation was received for this review and all opinions are my own.