The Things We Know Now offers, as the title suggests, an example of the power of hindsight. However, this insightful novel confronts the crisis that the Grants face following the suicide of their fourteen-year old son Daniel. Hindsight is not enough to bring him back.
Told predominantly from Patrick Grant’s perspective, we learn about his unfaithful first marriage to Cecelia and subsequent strained relationship with his eldest daughter Rebecca. When Cecelia suddenly dies, Patrick’s world falls apart. His youngest daughters Frances and Sophie, whilst young and grieving themselves, take care of their father who is unable to survive on his own.
Patrick overcomes Cecelia’s death with the help of a counsellor, Ella, and their relationship rapidly develops after Patrick’s counselling sessions have ended. The announcement of their engagement drives the wedge further between Patrick and his daughter. Following the birth of their son Daniel so shortly after Rebecca’s first son, this gulf seems too immense to breach.
Daniel grows up to be an extremely gifted boy with incredible artistic talent and enthusiasm. Patrick’s happiness soars; he is a transformed man making the most of his second chance at being a good husband and father. Until Daniel’s suicide. The family’s lives are shattered and those that knew him are plunged into the depths of bewilderment. It is gradually revealed that Daniel had another side to his life that his parents were seemingly unaware of.
Ella, who previously seems too understanding, too thoughtful, effectively too ideal, becomes a bereaved mother who exhibits grief that is agonisingly real. Both she and Patrick cope in the only way that they feel is possible, searching for answers. The entire family pull together to help them in this quest. Even Rebecca reaches out and forgives her father, despite their relationship being severely fractured for the best part of Rebecca’s life.
The hopeful ending demonstrates how hindsight and loss can be channelled into something positive. The Grants will never recover but they a fuelled with the initiative to protect other children and to prevent tragedy from happening again.
The Things We Know Now is a compelling and at times emotional read exploring the test of human endurance and familial strength in crisis. A thought-provoking page-turner, definitely worth picking up.
The Things We Know Now is available now from Pan Macmillan.
words: Jessica Loveridge