The Day of the Accident by Nuala Ellwood is the story of Maggie after the accident in which her young daughter dies. Waking from a coma in the first scenes, Maggie spends the rest of the novel trying both to get better and find out the truth. Given the subject of child loss I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it but you are hooked in quickly.
One thing I think makes this book stand out above other thrillers is the emotional truth in how Maggie deals with her unspeakable loss. It is a mystery novel as she uncovers not just what happened in the tragic accident but why it happened.
I also thought the stark social reality that Maggie has to face made this book more relatable. Coming out of a coma, her partner has left and she is left homeless, jobless and without her possessions. She has no family and no back up.
The true measure of any society can be found in how we treat its most vulnerable members ~ Ghandi
The world has treated Maggie unkindly and it is hard not to sympathise though you worry that she was responsible for her child’s death. The drawing of her character in particular is so compelling. Even though her amnesia could seem like a narrative tool at times, I think the flashbacks work well as we are led through her discovery of what has happened
Without spoiling the ending, I was upset that there was some sexual violence in her history. I try and avoid novels with this content for my wellbeing and so it surprised me. It is relevant to the plot but it jarred with me more than the main subject of the novel, child loss.
I do think this is a very compelling read and I think I enjoyed it despite the tragedy.
If you liked that, you’ll like this…
Another book that deals with the loss of a child so well is Missing Pieces by Laura Pearson. It is a very different mystery but I think Linda is another excellently drawn character who has to find her own way of dealing with her horrific loss. Pregnant with her third child while mourning the loss of her daughter, we are left so hoping she can make it through the depression and loss and find hope again in the future.
I think what is so wonderful about these novels is while the subject is so difficult, the characters are very real to us. We feel able to put ourselves in the shoes of these remarkable woman who overcome what we hope we may never have to face.