Book Review: What She Left, by Rosie Fiore

Helen Cooper, a highly successful and organised mum, cleans her house, waves to the neighbour, then fails to pick up her kids. She simply disappears.


What She Left is a story that shares the torment of many characters and showcases the breaking down of family, career and friendship when Helen Cooper disappears one morning from her organised, predictable life. It is not, as I thought, a mystery story , rather, an emotional journey into a damaged world of relationships.

Rosie Fiore has chosen to use a popular style in telling this story, one in which each chapter is segmented into giving the view of events as seen by a particular character. In this case it seems to jar the flow of the story and gives the reader a stop/start sense of events.

Helen Cooper is a successful step mum with two little girls attending school. She is the mum who organises everything, who is always on time, and is never with a hair out of place. The other school gate mums see her as a bubbly go-get-them type who is first to raise her hand to organise and support her girls and the school. One day she makes sure her home is cleaned, tidied and locked and she waves to a neighbour as she walks away and out of sight. She does not turn up to collect her girls and causes much panic as it becomes obvious that she is missing. Although this appears to be the beginning of the damage, as the reader continues to get to know the other players in this story, it is also a new beginning.

Words like tragedy, usury, alcoholism, determination, selfishness, dysfunction, desperation and complicity can all be used to describe elements of this story which slows and stalls in places but hooks you back in quickly. I found myself being drawn to a lesser character, the brother of Sam Cooper (Helen’s husband) and Uncle Tim to the girls, a young chef who seems to be the glue that holds the family together but also a fine filter on the reality of the complex relationships being forged in this unsettled time.

The fact that Helen does love her husband and the girls very deeply makes her decision to disappear poignant. This is a complex, emotional story and requires the time to sit and understand the subtleties woven in the text to fully appreciate it.

Reviewed by Leanne Caune

Rating out of 10:  7

Released by: Allen & Unwin
Release Date: October 2017
RRP: $29.99

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