I Let You Go by Jenna Gray follows a mother trying to live with the guilt of the loss of her child and two police investigators trying to get to the bottom of the hit-and-run (Out now!)
I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.
At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them.
The wind flicks wet hair across her face, and she screws up her eyes against the rain. Weather like this makes everyone hurry, scurrying past on slippery pavements with chins buried into collars. Passing cars send spray over their shoes, the noise from the traffic making it impossible for her to hear more than a few words of the chattering update that began the moment the school gates opened. The words burst from him without a break, mixed up and back to front in the excitement of this new world into which he is growing. She makes out something about a best friend, a project on space, a new teacher, and she looks down and smiles at his excitement, ignoring the cold that weaves its way through her scarf. The boy grins back and tips up his head to taste the rain, wet eyelashes forming dark clumps around his eyes.
“And I can write my name, Mummy!”
“You clever boy,” she says, stopping to kiss him fiercely on his damp forehead. “Will you show me when you get home?”
They walk as quickly as five-year-old legs will allow, her free hand holding his bag, which bangs against her knees.
Headlights glint on wet tarmac, the dazzle blinding them every few seconds. Waiting for a break in the traffic, they duck across the busy road, and she tightens her grip on the small hand inside the soft woolen glove, so he has to run to keep up. Sodden leaves cling to the railings, their bright colors darkening to a dull brown.
They reach the quiet street where home lies just around the corner, its seductive warmth a welcome thought. Secure in the environs of her own neighborhood, she lets go of his hand to push away the strands of wet hair from her eyes, laughing at the cascade of droplets it causes.
“There,” she says, as they make the final turn. “I left the light on for us.” Across the street, a redbrick house. Two bedrooms, the tiniest kitchen, and a garden crammed with pots she always means to fill with flowers. Just the two of them.
“I’ll race you, Mummy . . .”
He never stops moving; full of energy from the second he wakes until the moment his head hits the pillow. Always jumping, always running.
It happens in a heartbeat; the feeling of space by her side as he runs toward home, seeking out the warmth of the hall, with its porch-light glow. Milk, biscuit, twenty minutes of television, fish fingers for tea. The routine they have fallen into so quickly, barely halfway through that first term at school.
The car comes from nowhere. The squeal of wet brakes, the thud of a five- year-old boy hitting the windshield and the spin of his body before it slams onto the road. Running after him, in front of the still-moving car. Slipping and falling heavily onto outstretched hands, the impact taking her breath away.
It’s over in a heartbeat.
She crouches beside him, searching frantically for a pulse. Watches her breath form a solitary white cloud in the air. Sees the dark shadow form beneath his head and hears her own wail as though it comes from someone else. She looks up at the blurred windshield, its wipers sending arcs of water into the darkening night, and she screams at the unseen driver to help her.
Leaning forward to warm the boy with her body, she holds her coat open over them both, its hem drinking surface water from the road. And as she kisses him and begs him to wake, the pool of yellow light that envelops them shrinks to a narrow beam; the car backs up the street. Engine whining in admonishment, the car makes two, three, four attempts to turn in the narrow street, scraping in its haste against one of the huge sycamore sentries lining the road.
And then it is dark.
Copyright © 2016 Clare Mackintosh.
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Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years on the police force in England and has written for The Guardian, Good Housekeeping, and other publications. A columnist for Cotswold Life and Writing Magazine, she is the founder of Chipping Norton Literary Festival and lives in the Cotswolds with her family.