Just like any other mother, Samantha Bushell adores her two little girls. Her own childhood was unhappy with an abusive, neglectful and inadequate mother. Tormented by her childhood memories she struggles to function as an adult and finds comfort in alcohol until it begins to destroy her life. Social worker, April Gardiner strives to help Samantha to hold on to her children whilst her priority is to keep them safe.
At the same time as dealing with the trauma and sufferings of the families she works with and making life changing decisions for children, April is also trying to deal with her own personal issues.
The story raises issues around disadvantage and describes how the state and government ideology perpetuates underprivilege and inequality, trapping those families in a cycle of deprivation and abuse.
Whilst the story provides an insight into the shadowy world of children and families social work and the dilemmas and life changing decisions that are part and parcel of their everyday work, the main theme of the story is how the luck of who you are born to will determine who you later become, and the steep uphill struggle faced by the unfortunate children who are born into deprivation.
Although there is sadness, there are also happy outcomes for some and a spattering of humour throughout; laughter as well as tears.
An emotional rollercoaster.
With Broken Lives Teresa Devereux has created a remarkable book: a page-turner of a novel that resonates with the spirit of authentic social work and child protection, populated by characters that struggle with problems that are all too real and current. April Gardiner is a fascinating protagonist: sensitive, strong-willed and emotionally articulate while at the same time grappling with personal demons. Devereux walks a fine line between giving the reader hope of a happy denouement, while never losing sight of the fact that so many children are lost within a system that is both overloaded and criminally under-resourced.
Beautifully written and artfully paced, Broken Lives begs to be read in one sitting. - S. A. Dunphy