Title: Keep You Safe
Author: Melissa Hill
Published: August 21st 2017
Publisher: Harper Collins Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
For single mum Kate O’Hara, there was no decision to make. Her daughter Rosie is one of a small percentage of Irish children with a disorder that prevents her from being vaccinated against measles. All Kate can do is hope that herd immunity keeps the disease at bay, and her little girl safe .
For Madeleine Harrington, it was a leap of faith she wasn’t prepared to take which is why she and her husband decline controversial measles jabs for their daughter Clara. All she can do is pray that it’s the right decision and if her little girl becomes sick, she gets through it unscathed.
The two girls have just started primary school in the same class. And when one day, tell-tale red spots appear on Clara Harrington’s chest, and Rosie’s a few days after, both mums fear the worst…how can this be happening when all they wanted was to keep their children safe?
An stunning and addictive powerful new book club read that explores every mother’s worst fear and hardest decision from beloved Irish bestselling author Melissa Hill.
To vaccinate or not to vaccinate your children? For some parents the decision to vaccinate is not so easy. With claims of autism and other side effects associated with the vaccine floating around, some parents choose not to vaccinate their children. For the main characters in Melissa Hill’s novel Keep You Safe, Kate and Madeleine, both have chosen not to vaccinate their children. Kate’s is for a valid medical complication reason, while Madeleine’s is based on an informed choice she and her husband made. Either way, the decision this set of parents made in the past, has implications for the future health of their daughters. Vaccination is a divisive and emotive topic, which Irish novelist Melissa Hill explores in a well-rounded manner, through her latest release, Keep You Safe.
Parenting is a tough gig, where so many choices, both minor and major, play a part in the day-to-day struggles of raising children. For single mother Kate, the decision on whether or not to vaccinate her young daughter Rosie was ultimately decided for her. Rosie is one of a handful of members of the population who cannot receive the MMR vaccine, due to a medical condition. Kate must hope and pray that her daughter is kept out of harm’s way disease wise. Madeleine on the other hand, is a successful mummy blogger who made an informed choice with her husband Tom to refuse the recommendation of a vaccine for their young daughter Clara. Staying firm with their choice, they too only hope that Clara does not contract the diseases the vaccine sets out to prevent. Clara and Rosie attend the same school and class in a small Irish town. When they both get very sick, it has far reaching implications for all involved.
Irish novelist Melissa Hill’s latest novel, Keep You Safe was our book club pick for this month. Keep You Safe is the first book I have read by the popular author Melissa Hill. Keep You Safe provided plenty of fodder for discussion over the preconceptions, societal expectations, angst and pivotal facts surrounding the vaccination debate for our book club. After reading an online newspaper article about this novel and an accompanying interview with the author, I found it interesting that the impetus for the creation of this novel was Hill’s own experiences in deciding to vaccinate her own daughter some years ago. Hill admits that she was troubled by reports that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism, a link that has since been debunked. Despite this, Hill acknowledges the negative responses parents often receive when they choose not to vaccinate their children. There is no denying this is an emotive issue with plenty of associated grey areas.
Hill provides the reader with a representative case of both sides of the vaccination debate, courtesy of the experiences of her characters. I came out of my reading of this novel feeling much more informed and aware of the issues of vaccination and measles. Hill strives to provide an objective view of the issues revolving around vaccination. I know personally I was not aware of the fact until I read Keep You Safe that the decision not to vaccinate your child can be taken off a small percentage of the population’s hands if the vaccine causes other medical problems, which is the case with young Rosie. It truly is heartbreaking and Keep You Safe is written in such a way that the reader is able to put themselves in the shoes of the main protagonists, Kate and Madeleine and consider how they would react to the situation in which these two mums are faced with. The format of novel also provides the reader with enough background information to begin to form a valid opinion of the main divisive subject. This includes blog posts, social media tweets, texts, emails, notes, parent forums, newspaper articles, evening news reports and court reports. All these narrative sources provide a comprehensive picture of this emotionally wrought case.
Kate and Madeleine, the main characters of Keep You Safe are realistic, well depicted and come across as convincing on the page. Initially, I found it much harder to like Madeleine, the mummy blogger and mother who sends her sick daughter to school. She definitely earned my ire as a parent! But then I saw Madeleine was just human and made a choice all parents face. Ultimately, Madeleine makes a mistake and she pays dearly for this error in judgement. However, I eventually grew to forgive Madeleine and I even felt sorry for her as the book progressed. By the close of the novel I had made my peace with her. Kate on the other hand was a character that I felt a sense of immediate sympathy. The loss of her husband to sudden adult death syndrome (I’ve never heard of this before) and the tough life she leads gained my respect. It was heart wrenching to read the scenes involving Rosie’s contraction of the measles virus, I’m not sure how I would have coped in similar situation. Kate is a selfless and devoted woman, who I developed a strong bond with through reading Keep You Safe. Kate and Madeleine are supported by a cast of secondary characters who all have a part to play in the unfolding story, from close friend Lucy, to Kate’s hardworking lawyer Declan and Madeleine’s husband Tom. These characters provide plenty of drama, speculation, twists and turns in the book to keep you locked into the novel’s proceedings.
Keep You Safe is a thoroughly researched novel that is written in an accessible way. It also works to highlight the pros and cons of the controversial anti vaccination debate very well. Hill’s style reminds me of Jodi Picoult and I am sure this narrative approach will appeal to many readers. I am recommending Keep You Safe to book clubs in particular, as it contains plenty of material to discuss, most likely inciting a hearty discussion of the main issues at hand.
Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill was published on 21st August 2017 by Harper Collins Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Keep You Safe, Melissa Hill, visit here.