An unforgettable and profound novel about three generations of one family and the healing power of understanding where you’ve come from.
Set between the USA and Australia, Believe In Me focuses on a daughter’s attempt to piece together her mother Sarah’s early life. We follow Sarah’s journey from her home in upstate New York to Idaho, where she is sent to accompany a missionary. When Sarah falls pregnant she is despatched to relatives in Sydney to give birth at a home for unmarried mothers, where she is pressured to give up her baby, Bethany, for adoption. As Bethany learns more about her mother’s life, she comes to accept her own history and identity.
Believe in Me is about the extent to which the act of imagination—on the part of Bethany—may entail distortion and even forms of violence, but is nonetheless necessary: perhaps the only way a person can understand the sins and sufferings of their parents. Although Beth’s experience of growing up is entirely different from that of her mother, her attempt to engage with her mother’s life is a vital one, which enables her to address Sarah’s acts of deception, as well as her own and her mother’s persistent and conflicted attempts to show love.
Praise for Believe In Me
‘In this powerful novel the narrator honours her lost mother by tracing her journey from beguiled girl to confident activist, in the process arriving at an understanding of her own place in the world. I was spellbound’Brenda Walker
‘Astute, tender and wise: a novel of damage, recovery and the tangle of the mother–daughter knot.’Gail Jones
‘A profound portrait of the mother–child relationship, complex, heart-wrenching and suffused with an ineffable grace. Neave asks: what does it mean to be a woman? Her answer is both subtle and surprising.’Amanda Lohrey
‘In a literary landscape where so much contemporary fiction is merely competent and corrigible – what Nabokov called ‘weak blond prose’ – Neave’s authoritative and idiosyncratic style is a refreshing surprise. The language is powerful and richly allusive …’ Australian Book Review
‘Lucy Neave’s labyrinthic disquisition of a unique mother–daughter relationship is a deeply affecting, wholly engrossing rumination on the various lenses through which we are viewed, depending on the nature of our relationships … With Believe in Me, Neave reminds us there is great healing to be found by carefully listening to the stories of strangers and the people we think we know.’ Readings Monthly
‘Neave’s prose is spare, economic – an assured brevity (and dislocated eeriness) reminiscent of the short stories of Lydia Davis. She avoids festooning her sentences with unnecessary baubles…It’s plain writing of simple rhythm, undulating into a lilting, absorbing voice. Neave’s imagery is vibrant, too. The writing bears the indelible watermark of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, which Neave credits as an influence: the parallels of Fingerbone and small-town Idaho; a similar preoccupation with light and water; fleeting observations of ephemeral, ordinary beauty.’ The Guardian
‘“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent,” wrote Ludwig Wittgenstein. On the other hand, as Audre Lorde warns, “your silence will not protect you”. In Believe in Me, Lucy Neave charts a course between these two imperatives, putting the unsaid into words to reflect on the powerful effects of silence. This adroit, elegant novel follows Bet, a young woman living in Sydney in the early 2000s, as she tries to repair decades of miscommunication and reconstruct the story of her mother, Sarah.’ Beth Driscoll, The Sydney Morning Herald