WITHOUT A BACKWARD GLANCE

Kate Veitch

 On a stifling Christmas Eve in 1967 the lives of the McDonald children-Deborah, Robert, James, and Meredith-changed forever. Their mother, Rosemarie, told them she was running out to buy some lights for the tree. She never came back. The children were left with their father, and a gnawing question: why had their mother abandoned them?

Over the years, the four siblings have become practiced in concealing their pain, remaining close into adulthood, and forming their own families. But long-closed wounds are reopened when a chance encounter brings James face-to-face with Rosemarie after nearly forty years.

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 On a stifling Christmas Eve in 1967 the lives of the McDonald children-Deborah, Robert, James, and Meredith-changed forever. Their mother, Rosemarie, told them she was running out to buy some lights for the tree. She never came back. The children were left with their father, and a gnawing question: why had their mother abandoned them?

Over the years, the four siblings have become practiced in concealing their pain, remaining close into adulthood, and forming their own families. But long-closed wounds are reopened when a chance encounter brings James face-to-face with Rosemarie after nearly forty years. Secrets that each sibling has locked away come to light as they struggle to come to terms with their mother’s reappearance, while at the same time their beloved father is progressing into dementia.

Veitch’s family portrait reveals the joys and sorrows, the complexity and ambiguity of family life, and poignantly probes what it means to love and what it means to leave.

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  • Plume
  • Paperback
  • June 2008
  • 384 Pages
  • 9780452289475

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About Kate Veitch

 Kate Veitch was born in Adelaide in the mid-1950s and left home and school early, eager for color and movement. Her work over the years includes writing articles and reviews for the Sydney Morning Herald and Vogue, collaborating with other mothers on Feeling Our Way, a book about becoming parents, and producing a series on women writers, Their Brilliant Careers, for Radio National. She lives part-time in Manhattan and part-time in Melbourne, while she and her partner build a home for themselves in northern New South Wales. Without a Backward Glance is her first novel.

Praise

“Warm and always honest, Veitch manages to capture the ebb and flow of sibling dynamics and illuminate the mixed bag of emotions that comes with family life.” —Vogue Australia

Impossible to put down.” —Australian Women’s Weekly

Discussion Questions

About the title, Without a Backward Glance—what do you feel is the significance of someone taking “a backward glance”: does it represent regret, or reflection, or something else? How important is the title of a novel to you, and what do you think of the Australian title Listen?

To what extent were the lives and personalities of each of the children shaped by their mother’s departure and absence? Do you think they would have had similar personalities and traits if she hadn’t gone?

Was the situation Rosemarie faced in Australia in 1967 much different from the one she would have faced if she had been living in America? Was the Australian setting an important part of the novel for you?

Do you believe perfect parental love exists? If so, what shape does it take?

Did you find Rosemarie’s abandonment of her family believable? Forgivable? Why do you think a woman leaving her children is still such a taboo?

What might Rosemarie’s life have been like if she had stayed? What sort of family do you think the McDonalds would, or could, have been?

There are many instances of secrecy in Without a Backward Glance. Does every family have secrets? What is their role?

What value does truth have to the McDonald family? What value does truth have to you?

Does Alex’s dementia deepen the rifts between the members of his family, or draw them together? How do you think they will cope as it worsens?

After James finds his mother, his sexual relationship with his wife, Silver, blossoms. Why was it so lacking before this? And what was it about finding his mother that influenced such a change?

Why does Olivia have so few friends her own age? What do you think of this?

Would Angus have entered into the affair with Marion if his home circumstances had been different? Who is responsible for this—Angus? Deborah? Marion?

Do you think Laurence has been harmed by his mother’s alcoholism?

Do you believe the characters in Without a Backward Glance are held accountable for their faults and misdeeds? If not, how does this make you respond?