Sex, Lies and Family Ties by Sarah J Graham. Alchemy Press, 2012, £10 paperback (also available in Kindle edition)
Reviewed by Allen Ashley
Set mostly during September 1970, this book will evoke bittersweet memories for anyone who remembers drinking halves of cider or bottles of Kia-ora; painting their bedroom wall orange or purple; listening to early T Rex and mourning the untimely death of Hendrix; describing unpleasant situations as a “bummer” or “heavy vibes”. At the core of the story are three friends – Carol, Syl, and Jac – all aged nineteen and on the cusp of womanhood. It is bookshop assistant and biker girl Carol whose narrative we mostly follow. The occasionally meandering plot reflects her damaged and uncertain psychological state as she inches towards taking control of her own destiny and throwing off the stifling shackles of “Family… something you got lumbered with.” She is a sympathetic though sometimes annoyingly self-centred heroine. The novel has some strongly written scenes, particularly the gripping final chapter as Carol floats adrift through her abusive brother’s funeral and wake before metaphorically swimming to safety. A thought-provoking coming of age story; as well as a snapshot of those difficult times.