The old saying goes: ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’. But what if your problem is secret?
Erica, newly widowed, is devastated to discover her venture capitalist husband left their finances in ruins. Determined to save her home while protecting her teenage daughters, she vows to get back on her feet without letting them, or anyone else, know the truth.
When her girls head off on a long-planned overseas adventure, Erica focuses on her much-loved job behind a makeup counter to keep her emotionally and financially afloat – although she is troubled by a peculiar encounter at work.
Then she loses her job, the darkness beckons and Erica’s life spirals downwards, further disturbed by strange occurrences in her house. Missing objects. Stopped clocks. Noises in the night. Should she doubt her very sanity? Can she swallow her pride and make herself reach out to her friends in time? Does she have a choice?
I was utterly absorbed by Trick of the Light, right from the prologue. Fiona McCallum has that rare gift of being able to transport readers away in a story, while simultaneously making it feel all very familiar. It’s an incredibly common story, even today, where a woman finds herself faced with financial confusion, stress or even ruin, through divorce or the death of a spouse. We all know otherwise intelligent women who have allowed their husband to run the finances and then experienced great disadvantage once they have to step up and take control themselves – perhaps we’ve even been that woman. As a result, Erica, complex, compelling and superbly drawn, is also painfully relatable.
Erica’s life continues to unravel after her husband’s death, when the company she works for goes under and she’s let go from the job, but more importantly she struggles mentally with the weight of grief and financial problems – something she’s keeping secret from her daughters as they head off overseas so as to not tarnish their father’s memory.
Trick of the Light is an exquisitely written, incredibly realistic and very moving portrayal of loss, change and self-discovery. Healing is not linear and that is superbly portrayed here.
We discover how Erica once had dreams. She’s an excellent mother who has a great relationship with her daughters. We’re with her through long dark nights alone after her daughters go travelling – an experience many empty nesters can relate to. And mostly, Fiona writes about Erica’s internal world with great empathy and wisdom. Strange things are happening, and Erica begins to question her own mental health, a storyline with an excellent resolution (no spoilers here!).
While there are difficult themes addressed, Trick of the Light is ultimately an uplifting and hopeful read. Fiona McCallum has carved out a name for herself as one of Australia’s master storytellers, and with this latest novel, that position is secure.