Your Preview Verdict: The Family Doctor by Debra Oswald

Your Preview Verdict: The Family Doctor by Debra Oswald

A novel of searing emotional truth, told with the relentless pull of a thriller, from the award-winning creator of Offspring.

Paula is a dedicated suburban GP, who is devastated by the murder of a friend and her children by their estranged husband and father. Stacey and the children had been staying with her after fleeing his control, and Paula is haunted by the thought that she couldn’t protect them when they most needed it. How had she missed the warning signs? How had she failed to keep them safe?

Not long after, a patient with suspicious injuries brings her anxious young son into Paula’s surgery. The woman admits that her husband hurts her, but she’s terrified to leave for fear of escalating the violence, and defeated by the consistent failures of the law to help her.

Can Paula go against everything she believes to make sure one woman is saved, one child spared? She isn’t motivated by revenge. She’s desperately trying to prevent a tragedy . . .

A riveting, provocative novel about women’s fury, traumatic grief, new love, deep friendship, and the preciousness of life, The Family Doctor asks the questions: Should you cling to faith in a flawed system, or take control the only way you can? Can a good person justify taking a life to save a life?

Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:

A wonderful book that explores the difficult subject of domestic violence and the floored system that often seems to protect the perpetrator. The characters in this story are wonderfully relatable and I found myself invested in their moral dilemmas… it seems I have previously unrecognised vigilantly tendencies. Along with anger, I also felt the joy of strong female friendship and for a story covering such a tough topic even had a few laughs, however, if you don’t want to be seen crying in public, I highly recommend you read this book behind closed doors! A wonderful, well-written book that had me fully engrossed the entire way. You know a book has gripped you when days later you are wondering what the characters did next. Highly recommended read! – Leesy, NSW, 5 Stars

This is a very gripping book but it’s not what I expected; the cover makes you think it’s a crime/thriller novel. It is that but it’s much much more. This book explores some big themes: domestic violence, the shortcomings of systems meant to protect women, the unique bonds of female friendship and guilt. Domestic violence is a huge problem here and the novel aims to make the reader think and realise that the statistics are real people, even someone you know. I was struck by the way the legal system, police and social services were seen as well-meaning but ineffectual. I loved the portrayal of female friendship in the book – it felt authentic and you’d count yourself lucky to have these women as friends. The ways they supported one another through trauma really shone through. The book also delves into guilt. There is a price to pay for doing the right thing and it fundamentally changes many of the characters. I highly recommend The Family Doctor – not only is it enthralling, it’s also thought-provoking. This book stayed with me long after I’d finished it. – Kecia, NSW, 5 Stars

The Family Doctor is a book that will hook you from the start & keep you gripped until the end. This is a story about Stacey & her 2 kids who have fled an abusive husband to stay with friend and doctor Paula. Tragedy strikes soon into the book when Paula comes home from work to find Stacey & the children murder by her husband who then kills himself in front of Paula. What follows is a roller coaster ride for Paula between what’s right & wrong with her court reporter friend Anita trying to help her through it. It’s an emotional experience this book & shows how much needs to be done with domestic violence. This is a book that will stay with you long after you have finished it. – Terry, NSW, 5 Stars

WOW WOW WOW !!! Gripping read, read the book in three days! The Family doctor is an amazing read and I could not put it down. The opening scene and all the way throughout the book were powerful and engrossing. The characters and situations could be very real. The Author -Debra Oswald has done her research and confirms this in her acknowledgments (at the back of the book). The book does revolve around domestic and family violence and also the strong friendship, supports and heartbreaks of several women. It’s a must-read! – Karen, NSW, 5 Stars

We all imagine how we might act if we are put in a certain situation, but until we go for a walk in those shoes, we have absolutely no idea. This book is about one of those situations and I change my mind at least 6 times while reading it. It’s hard to say I enjoyed a book about such a horrible subject, but I would highly recommend it. – Kay, QLD, 5 Stars

As I work in the sector dealing with domestic violence against women and children, this book instantly grabbed me. Paula’s caring character immediately comes to the fore. As a wife and doctor, she had looked after her sick husband, Remy, in their renovated house until he died. When her friend, Stacey, and Stacey’s children left a place of domestic violence, she invited the trio to live with her, a situation she was taking pleasure in. How quickly the situation changed when she arrived home to find a tragic event had taken place in her home. As I am sure many of us have thought about dealing with perpetrators ourselves, so did Paula. The book leads us through her medical practice and some of the patients she attends to, and the circumstances she finds herself in where she decides to mete out the justice she, and possibly you also, feel they deserve. This is one of those books you don’t want to put down till you have read it in one sitting and I would thoroughly recommend it. – Denise, NSW, 5 Stars

A very powerful and thought-provoking read. Heartbreaking opening to the book and the story continues to deliver turmoil to the characters within. An open and frank novel about the challenges women (and their children) face, dealing with domestic violence, it does not give up from beginning to end and keeps the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride. The ethical dilemma someone can face, should they really act if they know they could get away with it? – Ingrid, 5 Stars

If someone close to you was brutally murdered in an act of family violence how would you respond? Debra Oswald makes us ask that question in The Family Doctor, a beautifully written novel about one of the most difficult issues facing society today. As you would expect from the person who created television’s Offspring this story gives us real characters in real situations, while at the same time highlighting the prevalence of family violence. But it’s not a morbid or depressing read. It centres around three friends who have known each other since school and how they respond to the difficult issues facing them, displaying their warmth and generosity, while exploring how far they are prepared to go to protect society’s most vulnerable! I found it hard to put down! Oswald is a great writer and this is a ripper read. Very highly recommended. – Chris, QLD, 5 Stars

The Family Doctor is a book about a relationship between Paula (the local GP) and her beloved friend Alice and how far one could/would go. I found that the story leapt off the page and really loved the exploration of a female relationship. Interwoven into this Friendship is the surrounding and prominent family violence issues that circulate the ‘family doctor’. I absolutely loved this book and it really made me think ‘how far would I go?’ Excellent and highly recommend!! – Katarzyna, VIC, 5 Stars

This book is an amazing read. From start to finish I was gripped. You never knew what was going to happen next. One of the opening scenes was intense and it didn’t stop from there. Debra Oswald is definitely an author to watch and I would happily read another of her books as she is extremely talented. All I can say is read this book as I am sure others would enjoy it as much as I did. It covers the very sad topic of domestic violence which can be very confronting but it is also a real problem in society. I want to thank Better Reading for my copy of this book to read as I enjoyed it thoroughly. – Renee, QLD, 5 Stars

The story of domestic violence, grief and post-traumatic stress disorder in The Family Doctor is being played out daily in Australia. Paula, Anita and Stacey are friends whose bond has held strong since high school despite their different life choices. Debra Oswald has written a powerful, fast-paced and thought-provoking book that sadly feels all too real. I found it hard to put down as I was caught up in the lives of the characters in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy. The language used is descriptive “She knew it very well – the brassy smell of blood” and there is an undercurrent of menace and violence. That being said there are light parts and the love between the friends shines through. You will find that you may identify more with one character and this will cause you to question whether you would behave the same way if faced with similar challenges and choices. The Family Doctor should be made into a movie or miniseries as it explores such difficult subjects in such a relatable way. – Janelle, NSW, 5 Stars

I think this book should begin with a trigger warning as many scenes were quite confronting and definitely could be a trigger for anyone with experience with domestic violence/abuse. That being said I did still enjoy this book and I think it was very thought-provoking, not only in terms of what you would do if you were in a position of suffering from domestic violence but also what you might do if you had the opportunity to step in and permanently change that situation for someone else. I don’t think this book will be for everyone and I would definitely avoid recommending it to someone unless I was sure they had not experienced any abuse as described in this book. – Rachelle, TAS 3 Stars

I received an uncorrected reading copy thanks to Better Reading and Allen & Unwin. The story centres around domestic and family violence and the very real far-reaching impacts of family violence on victims, relatives, friends, emergency services, the justice system and health professionals. Paula Kaczmarek is a GP and is faced with the horrors of family violence both in her personal and her professional life and the book explores her reactions, her actions and the ways in which these situations affect her. A thought-provoking read, which makes you ponder what you would have done in those situations. A suspenseful and gripping pace, authentic characters and hard-hitting emotional impact. I’m really hoping there is a sequel!!! – Bree, NSW, 5 Stars

A fantastic cast of characters in this story had me hooked and asking myself “what would I do?” Guilt and responsibility, and societies perceptions of right and wrong are highlighted in this timely storey. – Rachel, QLD, 5 Stars

Wow, what a spine-tingling first chapter! It dragged me in from the get-go. Debra Oswald has a great way of making the reader understand the mental anguish of the characters and the tragedy of domestic violence in our community. The Family Doctor is a gripping drama about friendship, female strength and the unravelling of one’s sense of right and wrong. I would highly recommend this book. – Kim, VIC, 5 Stars

Paula found her friend, Stacey and her two children murdered in her house then she also witnessed the murderer shot himself. Paula is a GP and she meets a few women patients who also facing domestic violence. What Paula experienced about not being able to save Stacey effecting her action towards those certain patients with domestic violence background. How far Paula is willing to help them,? It’s a thought-provoking read involving domestic violence and post-trauma. – Vivi, NSW, 4 Stars

A gripping novel that sucks you into the storyline upon reading the first line. An eye-opening storyline makes for a great read. – Heidi, NSW, 4 Stars

An excellent, but confronting read. – Laura, SA, 4 Stars

The Family Doctor is a gripping, emotional roller coaster from beginning to end. It is the story of the strong and enduring friendship between three women and how the joy and heartbreak of each one are so deeply felt by the others. The characters are brilliantly drawn and easy to relate to, and although some of the actions carried out by one of the characters go against the grain, it is difficult not to secretly cheer her on. This book draws much-needed attention to the way domestic violence is dealt with and the desperate need for a more robust support system for the victims to protect them from repeated abuse. It brings into question the efficacy of the judicial system in protecting innocent victims of abuse. The book also illustrates that punitive measures such as restraining orders, imposed on perpetrators, are difficult to enforce and often ineffective. While vigilantism is clearly not the answer, something needs to be done.
Thanks to Better Reading, Debra Oswald and Allen & Unwin for the ARC. – Charlene, WA, 4 Stars

This is a book of realisation and understanding. We all know it is there and happens, but Debra Oswald has addressed it head on. The characters roles are superbly chosen to follow the course of actions that ‘must’ be taken. The topic is swiftly introduced to the story and without ‘legal jargon’ and ‘lawyer speak’. The main characters display their own inner strengths and weaknesses about the subject throughout the story. Once you have begun to read, hold on tight because it is time for a rollercoaster ride of emotions. A thoroughly enjoyable book that is thought-provoking and heart-rending. – Maggie, QLD, 4 Stars

What an engrossing book! This is not your standard thriller. It is a book to make everyone sit back and think about domestic violence in our world. The characters are flawed, which makes them believable, and the situations in which they find themselves are all too real, unfortunately. This book serves as a reminder to everyone that sometimes evil lives close, and also that good people can do bad things. – Karen, VIC, 4 Stars

Hold on to your hats for a wild ride!! This novel is gripping, right from the first page. In this spine-tingling thriller, Oswald confronts the intense issue of domestic violence head-on and creates an amazing narrative. This is not for the faint-hearted either. There is some very graphic imagery, however, throughout the story, Oswald’s masterful storytelling draws you into the experiences of the characters. She also sparks an interesting dilemma about what ordinary citizens can do in the face of intense evil. Well worth a read. – Angie, NSW, 4 Stars

A challenging and thought-provoking read from a great Australian writer, I really enjoyed reading this book. The topic of family violence is something that we need to continue to discuss and bring to the forefront and it was a very interesting perspective (without giving too much away) – I liked the moral dilemma discussion and how far would you go and push your own boundaries. Would look forward to reading future books by the author. – Emma, VIC, 4 Stars

This book is intense and in your face, it makes you think and is hard to put down. The characters are damaged and very real. A thought-provoking read that is very emotional and not always pleasant. – Vanessa, NSW, 3 Stars

What an amazing concept for a story and while I’m not sure the author nailed it; the anticipation of the story kept me going. I felt like some of the parts of the book were drawn out too long and I wanted the main part of the story to continue and be a bit more of the focus. Sadly I also found the ending to tidy and very hard to believe that this situation could end this way. I did like the characters and thought the author captured the feelings of loss, grief and confusion really well and I did build a connection with them, I just wish the storyline was more realistic and the court case didn’t go on so long. Like most reviews, I read this is a very important topic and hopefully this will at the very least get people talking about it. – Di, QLD, 3 Stars

This story is shocking and intriguing from the beginning. It explores what happens when you set aside moral norms and seek to right wrongs – with further wrongs… Clearly, the author was inspired by a frustration with recent and appalling family violence and more specifically, violence against women that has endlessly frequented the media. For some people, the themes explored in the book may be triggering. I enjoyed the familiar surrounds of the setting of the book – Sydney. It was fantastic to read a psychological thriller set in Australia, by an Australian author and a female Australian author to boot! This makes the female lead characters believable and complex rather than the two-dimensional female characters that sometimes feature in this genre. The story kept me engaged which is a challenge given my current lack of concentration. I think many people are facing the same state of mind at the moment. – Shelley, NSW, 3 Stars

The Family Doctor gives insight into the often private world of domestic violence, but it quickly moves into a story of fury, revenge and deep-felt grief. I liked that it gave a different perspective to domestic violence. The novel starts at a quick pace and I enjoyed the first half, gaining an insight into the mind of suburban GP and widow Paula, her friend Anita and the victim Stacey. The second half of the book however lost my attention. As the plot twisted and turned I found the storyline to become unplausible and almost far-fetched. It lost its grip and didn’t keep me enthralled. I fully admit to being a bit of a realist and I think it was that, which stopped me from identifying with or finding Paula’s actions to be remotely realistic. The coincidences with people popping up at the right time had me rolling my eyes occasionally. What started as a great first half just drifted off for me in the second and lost my interest and the overall opportunity to build tension. Having said all of this I did enjoy the first half and this wouldn’t be a typical genre for me. – Tracey, TAS, 2 Stars

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                Publisher details

                The Family Doctor
                Author
                Debra Oswald
                Publisher
                Allen & Unwin
                Genre
                Crime Fiction
                Released
                02 March, 2021

                Synopsis

                Paula is a dedicated suburban GP, who is devastated by the murder of a friend and her children by their estranged husband and father. Stacey and the children had been staying with her after fleeing his control, and Paula is haunted by the thought that she couldn't protect them when they most needed it. How had she missed the warning signs? How had she failed to keep them safe? Not long after, a patient with suspicious injuries brings her anxious young son into Paula's surgery. The woman admits that her husband hurts her, but she's terrified to leave for fear of escalating the violence and defeated by the consistent failures of the law to help her. Can Paula go against everything she believes to make sure one woman is saved, one child spared? She isn't motivated by revenge. She's desperately trying to prevent a tragedy... A riveting, provocative novel about women's fury, traumatic grief, new love, deep friendship, and the preciousness of life, The Family Doctor asks the questions: Should you cling to faith in a flawed system, or take control the only way you can? Can a good person justify taking a life to save a life?
                Debra Oswald
                About the author

                Debra Oswald

                Debra Oswald is a writer for film, television, stage, radio and children's fiction. Her novels for teenagers include Getting Air and Blue Noise, and her children's novels include The Redback Leftovers, Me and Barry Terrific, The Return of the Baked Bean and The Fifth Quest.Her plays include Gary's House and Sweet Road, which were shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Award. Her best known play, Dags, has been performed in Britain and the United States. In 2008 Stories in the Dark won Best Play in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards.Debra's television credits include Police Rescue, Palace of Dreams, Bananas in Pyjamas and The Secret Life of Us. She is creator and head writer of the Channel 10 drama series Offspring, for which she won a NSW Premier's Literary Award in 2011.

                Books by Debra Oswald

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