Published by Urbane Publications
Available to buy in ebook and paperback (19 April 2018)
Welcome to my spot today on the blog tour for The Kindness of Strangers. This looks like a book that I would very much like to read if only I could fit it in to my reading schedule but in the meantime I have an extract to share.
JOAN LIVES ACROSS TOWN, in a bungalow on a newish estate that’s not far from the retail park, so I decide to drop off some more things at the charity shop on the way. These aren’t all Roberts’s this time, I’ve had a bit of a sort out too. I have clothes I haven’t worn for years and I’m unlikely to wear them again, not now. There is a stack of books too; Dick Francis and James Patterson aren’t my thing and neither are the DIY and gardening books. I don’t think they were Robert’s thing either, he wasn’t particularly practical and all the books in the world wouldn’t change that. He would say, ‘why waste time doing it yourself when you can pay a chap down the road to do it for you’.
The smiley lady is behind the counter again.
“Hello, more goodies for us?”
“Yes, and probably still more to come,” I reply.
“That’s good to hear. We always need good quality donations.” I’m slightly affronted by this remark, does she not remember why I have these ‘goodies’? I’m feeling a little low this morning so I’m probably over-sensitive. “Well, look at this,” she says picking up one of Roberts gardening books. “May treat myself to this one. I’ll put it aside and get Sheila to price it for me.”
“Have it,” I say.
“I can’t just take it, somebody else has to price it and I buy it just the same as anyone.”
“I don’t mind.”
“It’s not up to you to mind, it’s not yours to give, not anymore. You’ve donated it, so now it belongs to the charity, therefore I have to pay. That’s the rules.”
“Don’t apologise, I hardly think it’ll break the bank.”
I offer her a feeble smile. “What are you up to today?” she asks.
“Off to see my mother-in-law. I’d forgotten this must be difficult for her too. With Robert gone …” as I say his name I feel a lump in my throat. “Well there’s only me to look out for her now,” I continue.
“What’s she like? Your mother-in-law? Mine was a harridan.”
“A harridan, what an old-fashioned word.”
“It is, isn’t it? It’s the politest word I can think of to describe her.”
“In that case, I think I’m quite lucky with mine. It took me a little while to convince her that I wasn’t the enemy, but all-in-all she’s not so bad.”
As I leave the shop I feel a little lighter and not just because of the donations. The conversation I’ve had with … goodness, I don’t know her name, for now she’ll have to remain the smiley lady, but I will find out her name. The conversation I’ve had with the smiley lady was entirely normal, free-flowing and not driven by sympathy. Yes it was short, but it had the power to make me feel normal, for a few minutes anyway. It’s hard to explain but I feel my grief shrouds me in a fog that I can see out of but nobody else can see through; certainly not those that know me anyway. They see my grief and don’t know how to address it, they don’t realise that I’m here, beneath the fog, I’m still Helen. I’m still here and despite my sadness I would like people to see me. Smiley lady gets it; she sees me and in doing so lifts my spirits ever so slightly.
As I reverse onto the driveway at the front of Joan’s house I notice the curtains twitching in my rear view mirror. I smile to myself for I know she’ll take her time answering the door and pretend that she didn’t realise I was here. When she finally answers the door, I’m surprised at how dishevelled she looks.
“Helen, how nice to see you. I didn’t realise you were here. How are you?”
“I’m fine thank you,” I say as she ushers me along the hallway towards the lounge.
“Good, good. I’ll put the kettle on.” I offer to do it, but she remonstrates with me and tells me to go and sit down. I do as I’m told. Spread across the floor are countless envelopes and books. I bend towards the floor in order to take a closer look. They’re not books, they’re albums – photo albums – lots of them. The envelopes contain photographs too, mostly of Robert. I don’t think I’ve seen them before. When Joan comes in with a tray of tea I ask her where they’ve come from.
“They were in a box in the garage, right on the top shelf, I think Robert must have put them up there when I moved here. I knew I had them somewhere. Thankfully a nice young man helped me get them down as I couldn’t reach them.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen these,” I say. “Hang on, what ‘nice young man’?”
“Oh, he was one of those green people.”
“What?” I ask with trepidation.
“A green, for the local elections …” I breathe a sigh of relief, she wasn’t going … well, you know. “He was after my vote and asked if I could spare a few minutes. I said I could if he would help me retrieve a box from the top shelf in the garage. I’d already got myself covered in dust trying to reach it, so he got it down for me and then we had a discussion about politics.”
I smiled to myself at the thought of this; he wouldn’t have known what had hit him. Joan has a razor-sharp mind and enjoys a good debate, and despite her advancing years she would’ve been a formidable opponent, of that I’m sure.
| About the Book |
Deception abounds in Julie Newman’s breath-taking new novel.
Widow Helen is desperate for a perfect family life, and will do everything she can to get what she wants.
A veteran of the Afghanistan conflict Martin is adrift and seemingly without hope – can he ever win back his estranged family?
Pregnant teenager Charley is striking out on her own to create a new life for her unborn child, but her mother Lizzie has other ideas.
When three seemingly disparate lives connect, the past and the present collide to reveal secrets, lies and how far people are willing to go to hide the truth.
Following the gripping and controversial Beware the Cuckoo, Julie Newman’s thrilling new novel lifts the lid on the dark past that haunts a seemingly happy household.
The Kindness of Strangers is currently 99p to download from Amazon UK
| Author Bio |
Julie was born in East London but now lives a rural life in North Essex. She is married with two children. Her working life has seen her have a variety of jobs, including running her own publishing company. She is the author of the children’s book Poppy and the Garden Monster and the thriller Beware the Cuckoo. Julie writes endlessly and when not writing she is reading. Other interests include theatre, music and running. Besides her family, the only thing she loves more than books is Bruce Springsteen.