Medium 9781782205098

Starlings

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'But I suppose Steven and I knew something about broken things--that sometimes you just couldn't mend them. Never stopped trying though. Because you can't-until you do: stop and leave the broken thing behind.'Struggling to bear the legacy of her grandparents' experience of the Holocaust and her mother's desperate fragility, Sally seeks to reconnect with her brother Steven. Once close, Steven seems a stranger to her now that he has left London for Brighton. The echoes of their history once bound them--but it is an inheritance Steven can no longer share. Starlings reaches back through three generations of inherited trauma, exploring how the impact of untold stories ricochets down the years. As Sally winds her way back to catch the moment when Steven slipped away, she collects the fractured words and sliding memories that might piece together her grandparents' journeys. Having always looked through the eyes of ghosts she cannot appease, she at last comes to hear what speechless mouths might have said: perhaps Before may be somewhere we can never truly leave behind and After simply the place we must try to make our home.In delicate brushstrokes, this extraordinary first novel captures a family unravelling as the unspeakable finds a voice. It is by turns sad, hopeful, and deeply compelling.

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Part One

ePub

 

Less than an hour ago I was taking the same step past my mother's door, stepping back, raising my hand to knock, dropping it—she's a light sleeper, my mother, very light: I wouldn't want to wake her, not if she's managed to drop off, at least for a bit—but there it was, her dream-coated slur calling out:

Be with me, be with me, why will you never be with me?

Her voice but a ghost's words, the last shards of a dream she's always had. I can leave but her dream comes with me—she comes with me. Even now, two bus rides away from the house, I can still hear her—her note, her beat—the beat of the infant-mother, pulsing under the babble at Victoria station.

London to Brighton. Eight minutes. Platform six.

After the rushing and the shoving, that beat is all that's left: an empty iron fortitude, refusing to be beaten down by the clamour. How can such a little cry have such strength? Ensuring I remember, just as it pretends to help me forget:

Be with me, be with me, why will you never be with me?

 

Part Two

ePub

 

“Sally—are you alright?”

“Fine, yes—sorry, I shouldn't have called so late—I didn't think—”

“It's alright, it's not yet eleven, I was just getting your mother off to sleep—”

“Oh God, I didn't wake her—”

“No, no I don't think—as long as you're—and Steven—”

“Yes.” I say it too quickly—

“Well, you'll say hello to him for me—”

“Of course.” Of course, yes, of course I would.

“If that's all, I'd better…”

“Yes, only…I love you.” It slips out like one of my misshapen sorrys and I watch it sink until I hear a quick, quiet “I love you too” catch it. “You will say hello, won't you,” he says.

I look at my phone for a moment after we hang up, try to shake off how odd that must have seemed—see Dad, his eyes closing, trudging up the stairs, the saucer for the pills in the morning, my mother, in and out of sleep, her gasp and swallow.

I scroll my way to Steven's number, stop, put my phone back in my pocket—

You will say hello, won't you?

 

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9781781817506
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197 KB
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ePub
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