‘An innocent mistake. A lifetime of guilt.’
– Breaking Point
[ About the Book ]
Susannah has two beautiful daughters, a high-flying medical career, a successful husband and an enviable life. Her hair is glossy, her clothes are expensive; she truly has it all.
But when – on the hottest day of the year – her strict morning routine is disrupted, Susannah finds herself running on autopilot. It is hours before she realises she has made a devastating mistake. Her baby, Louise, is still in the backseat of the car and it is too late to save her.
As the press close in around her, Susannah is put on trial for negligence. It is plain to see that this is not a trial, it’s a witch hunt. But what will the court say?
[ My Review ]
Breaking Point by Edel Coffey will be released January 20th with Sphere Books and is described as ‘a gripping and emotional story from an exciting new voice in fiction.’
It tells the harrowing story of Susannah, a very successful and respected doctor, working in a busy Manhattan hospital as a Professor of Paediatrics. Married, with two very young children, Susannah should be exactly where she wants to be, but Susannah is struggling. Her expert medical advice lead to a publishing contract and television commitments which added significant pressure to her already busy days. Susannah is a perfectionist, a scheduler but, with her inability to recently cope with all the pressure she constantly feels under, any change to her routine throws her completely. Susannah thrives on an organised environment.
One regular morning, her husband had an issue with his car which threw Susannah’s perfectly organised morning out of kilter, as he needed a lift to work. Frenzied and under fierce pressure Susannah went into autopilot as she approached the hospital, knowing that this delayed start to her day would cause issues. It was a hot and sticky morning but, as Susannah entered the hospital, she put on her game face and got to work. It was only later in the day when she received a call at work that her world shifted, as her worst nightmare became a reality. In her haste that morning and, with the setbacks to her routine start, Susannah had completely forgotten about her baby, Louise, who had been asleep in the back of the car. Now, even though I knew this was coming from reading the book blurb, the pure feeling of horror and complete dread immediately filled my heart. Susannah’s reaction was heart-breaking. Her pain, her terror, her complete shock is vividly depicted and, as the public and media jump on board, Susannah’s life, her every move, past and present, goes under the microscope.
Adelaide is a TV news journalist with her own secrets to hide. Originally working for The New York Times, Adelaide shifted to television as she needed a fresh start in life. Adelaide has been running from her own past for years and, as Susannah’s trauma plays out in the public eye, Adelaide is given the job to get the scoop. Adelaide was an individual who always thrived on the buzz of a new case, a new town, a new crime to be reported on. It made her forget what she was running from and distracted her mind with the problems and suffering of others. Adelaide knew that reporting Susannah’s story would be one of the biggest challenges she would have to endure in recent years and, as the public weigh in, it’s soon clear to Adelaide that a witch hunt is about to play out.
Susannah was a familiar face and name in the homes of many Americans. Her TV name, Dr. Sue, was synonymous with Oprah. Her advice was dispensed and folk lapped it up. She was someone who knew all about paediatric medicine, about children and here she now was after ‘killing her own’. And although clearly accidental, there were plenty who felt she got her just deserts. As she paraded around in her designer fashion and expensive accessories dispensing her words to the masses, her own two children were farmed out to childcare. Susannah was accused of being too busy for own children, accused of treating them as a necessity in life, to accentuate her career as a paediatrician, as opposed to out of any reasons of love.
Susannah is put on trial for negligence. Here she stands, a woman grieving for her little baby, a working mother trying to be her best or was she just trying to have it all? Was she greedy? Was it a possibility that she really had no time for her children and perhaps had been negligent in her parenting from the get-go? Here was a woman who stood proud, giving nothing away to the hungry masses, but they wanted blood and Susannah, as a high-profile personality fit the bill.
Breaking Point is a story that will most certainly make any parent stop and think to themselves – there but the grace of God go I. Highlighting the pressures of the busy working mother, Edel Coffey, raises some very important questions about society’s attitudes and perceptions. Now clearly Susannah’s lifestyle is very much beyond the reach of many of us but, as the novel progresses, it becomes more obvious why a character of this calibre was needed to carry the story through to the end. A lesser known, less better off individual would perhaps not have faced the same level of wrath and hatred that was directed at Susannah. She had it all and where did it get her? Folk were hungry to make a sacrificial lamb out of Susannah, she was easy prey due to her perceived wealth, her lavish lifestyle and her very recognisable image.
Edel Coffey takes us behind the front door of Susannah’s home and also into the life of Adelaide. Two very different women but yet there is an invisible thread tying them together.
Breaking Point is a page-turner, a heartrending tale that puts a spotlight on many aspects of our society, some rather unsavoury and others more heartening. Guilt is a strong theme featured throughout the book which really resonated with me and will undoubtedly have a similar effect on many readers, be you a parent or not. We all carry so much guilt daily in our lives, about not doing enough but in reality can we ever do enough? No. Nobody is perfect. We all have our faults but most of us do not live in the public eye for all to examine and dissect.
A thought-provoking, disturbing and extremely poignant novel….
‘Breaking Point became a novel that examines how we live now. It’s about burnout. It’s about pressure. It’s about how having it all is a dangerous myth. It’s about the lack of choices available to people, not just parents, despite all the ‘progress’ we are told we have made.’
– Edel Coffey
[ Bio ]
Edel Coffey is an Irish journalist and broadcaster. She began work as an arts journalist and editor with the Sunday Tribune. She has since worked as a presenter and reporter with RTE radio, and as editor of the Irish Independent Weekend Magazine, and Books Editor of the Irish Independent. She lives in Galway with her husband and children.
Breaking Point is her first novel.
Twitter ~ @edelcoffey