Login   Sign Up 


Where we started - later chapter

by apsara 

Posted: 25 May 2006
Word Count: 4892
Summary: Much later on in the book - for those of you who remember earlier chapters. My protaganist left Thailand after husband's death. Chased old flame. Unresolved issues to be resolved by her best friend & husband being involved in tsunami. Jessica is best friend's daughter. Sensitive topic so would welcome feedback.

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

In the end Christmas didn’t go too badly. The girls loved their iPods. (Sharon’s suggestion and, in Pim’s case, bought with a substantial contribution from my parents.)
Jessica said how strange it was that her parents weren’t there, but she didn’t seem to mind too much. .I suspect she was glad to escape the predictable routine of the festivities. By common consent (and directly contradicting Sharon’s instructions), we had a mishmash of food for lunch – fried rice (Pim’s contribution), dips, salads followed by selection of exotic desserts from Marks & Spencer’s. We watched The Sound of Music (which Pim had never seen) on DVD, giggling over barely alcoholic bubbly. Later, the girls went off to swop music files and I enjoyed a bottle of decent wine (thanks to Mike’s discerning taste) and started reading a life of Ted Hughes. Sharon and Mike rang up and spoke to us all. They were having a wonderful time. I felt a pang of longing for Thailand and had to remind myself that Sharon was in a tourist ghetto in Phuket, a place that bore no relation to the life I had lived there.
‘Thanks for the present,’ I said. It was an outrageously sexy blue dress she told me I had to wear on New Year’s Eve, when we were going to a party with a group of her friends. I suspected her of matchmaking.
‘Don’t eat too much or you won’t fit into it,’ she joked. Finally, a goodbye for Jessica and then she was gone.
I went to bed, more than a little tipsy, at about ten, leaving the girls to their music.

Pim and I were both up by seven on Boxing Day. Neither of us had quite grown out of waking up early to enjoy the morning, despite the British winter. I glimpsed Pim, glued to breakfast TV, as I passed on my way to fix coffee.
‘Morning, love.’
‘Morning,’ she replied without turning round.
I had just put a measure of Sharon’s delicious Brazilian into the pot when I heard Pim calling.
‘Mum! Mum! Come and look at this.’
I tutted to myself. What could be so interesting that it had to interrupt my morning coffee? I stomped into the living room. The screen was filled with water for a moment and then a news announcer, talked of a giant wave.
‘Where’s that?’
‘Sri Lanka’, gasped Pim. ‘But I think it hit Thailand as well.’
We watched for an hour, sitting close together on the floor, both still in our dressing gowns. The stories seemed confused at first but slowly we started hearing names we knew: Phangnga, Krabi, Phuket.
‘Oh, mum!’ Pim held on to my sleeve.
The news spoke of hotels and tourist resorts. The beach where Sharon was staying, Chaweng, was mentioned.
‘What are we going to tell Jessica?’ asked Pim. I blessed Jessica’s habit of sleeping late, but we would have to tell her some time. I prayed that Sharon was safe and that she would ring soon and let us know.
‘Do you think Jessica’s mum and dad are OK?”
‘I don’t know, Pim. We’ll have to wait for news.’
‘And what about Grandfather and the aunts?’
‘They’re inland, Pim, you know that.’
‘But they might have gone to the sea for the day.’ Pim looked desperate.
‘Let’s give them a ring.’
No-one answered the phone. This was almost unheard of, there was always someone in the house.
‘They might have gone to your Grandfather’s sister’s to see if they’re OK. They live near the sea.’
I tried to sound confident but my mind was on sun loungers crushing against concrete walls, people clinging desperately to palm trees.
“Mum, what about Nang Rong?’
Nang Rong, Somchai’s village; Nang Rong with its palm trees and secluded beach; with its fishing boats lined up neatly on the shore. There was nothing between it and the sea. Sharon and Mike might have survived, their fate down to luck, but I knew Nang Rong could not have.
‘What will we tell Jessica?’ So many questions and I had no answers.
‘Don’t worry, love. We’ll look after her.’ Back to the platitudes and cliches again. I put my arms round Pim and for a moment we clung together.
‘Turn the TV off,’ I said gently. ‘We don’t want her to come down to that.’

It seemed an age before Jessica finally descended the stairs, rubbing her eyes and joking about her ‘hangover’. Pim and I were sitting, listening to our small radio, which we’d got out of the flat. We switched it off guiltily.
‘What’s the matter with the TV?’ And then recognising the fear on our faces, ‘What is it?’
‘Jessica.’ I looked at Pim first, willing her not to cry, and then at Jessica. ‘There’s been some sort of tidal wave in the Andaman Sea. Parts of Phuket have been hit.’
‘What do you mean?’
Í didn’t seem to be managing this well. It was as bad as telling Pim about her father’s death.
‘Your mum and dad are probably fine. But we’ll have to wait for them to get in touch. There’s been a lot of damage and things are very confused there.’
Jessica snatched the remote off the sofa. Again the screen was alive with water, different images this time: a wall of water, people running, peple hanging on to branches, boats, anything, as they were swept along, their faces desperate.
‘Oh my God!’ Jessica gasped. ‘Is that Phuket?’
‘No, I think it’s Sri Lanka. But it’s affected several countries.’
‘We have to do something.’
But it was difficult to know what to do in those first hours. We couldn’t remember the name of the hotel where Sharon and Mike were staying. We tried phoning the travel agent’s where they had booked the holiday. But it was Boxing Day and no-one answered. We looked Foreign Office numbers up on the website, like many other people. We tried them but it was impossible to get through.
So we watched the TV, our ears alert for the phone. It rang several times. Friends, wanting to know if we’d heard anything. These kind gesture sent our hearts soaring and then plunging into freefall. Jessica always got to the phone first.
‘Mum?!’ she said each time and then her face would crumble. She answered in monotones. No we hadn’t heard anything. No, we didn’t know anything more than we’d seen on the TV. Thanks for calling. Bye.
She dropped the phone on its stand and walked past us, without telling us who it had been.
‘Let me answer next time,’ I tried gently.
‘But it might be mum or dad.’Jessica’s eyes were full and she wiped them quickly on her dressing gown sleeve. She’d brought an old teddy downstairs and she clutched it to her, suddenly not a teenager any more but a little girl, desperately seeking reassurance.
I had none to give her. Eventually, helpline numbers were given on the TV. After tryng for half an hour solid, we finally got through.
‘Please could you give us the names and ages of the people you’re looking for – and where they were staying.’
The woman’s voice was sympathetic but there was very little practical help she could give.
‘We’ll phone you back as soon as we have more information. Our staff are on their way down their now.’

It was Pim who said it.
“Why don’t we go to Thailand and look for them ourselves.’
My first thought, utterly selfish, came out of some part of myself that I had forgotten: I can’t go back there now, not yet.
“We can go to Grandfather’s house, find out if they’re OK.’ We had still not managed to get through to them. We wondered if the lines were overloaded as we repeatedly got either an engaged signal or no-one answered.
Jessica and Pim looked at me expectantly.
‘I’m not sure that would be the best thing. You can’t just walk into a disaster zone. We’d be in the way. I’m sure they’ll have a system soon. And what if your mum rings up and no-one’s here?’
Jessica and Pim continued to look at me. For them, anything was better than sitting here, helpless.
‘OK’ I said. ‘Let’s see what we can do.’
It all went a lot more smoothly than you would have expected, considering it was a public holiday and there’d been a major international disaster.
My mother had a friend who had worked in a travel agent’s. Although flights were temporarily cancelled, British Airways quickly set up a service to get relatives to Thailand. We all had current passports. Sharon’s sister agreed to stay at the house in case Sharon and Mike rang. Her husband gave me his mobile phone with international roaming so that we could stay in touch with them.
It took a little less than forty-eight hours to get on the flight. In that time we had heard nothing, although once we had almost got through to Somchai’s father’s house. A voice, almost definitely ……’s had answered and then the line had gone dead. It was something for Pim to cling on to. For Jessica so far there was nothing.

People were incredibly helpful. I put my dismay at being forced back to the place I had left forever out of my mind, and concentrated on the girls. On the flight I had two stiff gin and tonics and tried to sleep. Each time I woke up, Jessica was sitting with her earphones on, her face blank of emotion, a mask. I don’t think she slept though Pim did, carried away from the emotion of it all for a few blissful hours. I wondered if I should have given them sleeping pills. What use was all this emotional energy in the search for the people we loved?
On arrival we found there were special desks for relatives of those missing. Transport could be provided. There were places to stay. Once we had ascertained that they had no news, I asked for tickets to Krabi.
‘We have relatives there. We can stay with them.’
‘Do they know you’re coming?’
‘No, but…”
‘Please, take the flight to Phuket which has been arranged. You can stay in….’
Thai bureaucracy was kicking in and all my learned resistance to it flared up, fuelled by jet lag and emotion.
‘Look, we know what we are doing. I can’t take these girls to Phuket. We need to go to Krabi.’
There was much discussion on walkie talkies and politely telling us to wait. Though the young woman who was dealing with us showed no emotion, I could tell that we had offended her. I felt briefly guilty, knowing she was only doing what she had been told. But emergencies called for initiative, not blind obedience. Besides, I didn’t want to take the girls to a place where there might be piles of bodies, horrific injuries. I had to get them to Krabi where I knew someone in the extended family would be there to take care of them.
Eventually it was arranged. On the flight south I saw Pim looking out of the window, torn between fear of what she might find and relief at being home again. I felt terribly guilty. Down below we could see nothing but the usual green dotted with human habitation and an expanse of blue deceitful sea.

Krabi was just the same. The wave had not reached here. Everyone seemed to be going about their business as normal. There were a few more police about and, in the airport, we caught a glimpse of a busload of dazed tourists being shepherded towards departures. That was all.
Pim jumped from the taxi as soon as it stopped at the gate. I helped Jessica out, so tired now that she could hardly stand. I would have to give her something to help her sleep. When we got to the front door, Pim was standing with her arms around her Auntie …., almost lifting her off the floor. Pim had grown while we’d been away and the aunties were not tall.
Pim was crying. This first reunion a release for her emotion.
Auntie …… was, for once, speechless, Her beloved niece back again, without warning.
‘What are you doing here?’ she said eventually, as though she wasn’t aware of the catastrophe that had taken place just kilometres away.
‘We thought you were dead,’ wailed Pim, though I had told her that I had heard ….’s voice, that the town was OK. Fear is like that, it runs rampant over the likely and the improbable without regard for reason.
‘Dead? Oh no, we’re OK. Uncle ……. lost some of his boats though. Did you know he’d invested in island ferries? Very lucrative, until now.’
The irritation that I had not felt for six months returned, rising up from my stomach like a burst ulcer.
‘….., we’re here to find some friends. Jessica’s parents.’
We all turned to look at Jessica, who in these few moments seemed to have become even paler. We had all forgotten that she had not understood a word of what was being said. All she could have registered was Pim’s happiness which only deepened her utter desolation.
Thai hospitality and …..’s pity kicked in.
‘Oh, the poor child! Come in! Come in!’
Jessica let herself be taken into the house. A servant took our meagre luggage upstairs. The family had converged in the soulless living room, the news of our arrival spreading by some unseen communication system into the furthest corners of the house. Pim was surrounded on all sides, hugged, her appearance commented on. Tears were shed. Even Grandfather forgot his dignity and hugged her tight to him. ….. and I took care of Jessica, …. slipping something into her drink. I dared not ask what it was, I just knew she had to sleep.
I escaped Thai bureaucracy, only to lose complete control to Somchai’s family, as I should have known I would. For once I did not resist, strangely glad to have the responsibility taken from me. Like Jessica, I was deeply tired.
By the time I had showered and got the girls settled, a car had been arranged and …..’s husband, a native of Phuket, had been delegated to accompany me. He had been there once already, found his relatives sheltering at a friend’s. He knew the hospitals. He would be able to help.
I felt guilty about tricking Jessica into sleep but I knew she could not come with me, not this first time. I needed to see what it was like. There was no point in traumatising her even more. I hoped that I would be back with news before she woke up.

Phuket looked strangely normal when we arrived from the mainland. We saw lots of emergency vehicles, people wearing dayglo vests, white and blue overalls. Everyone seemed to have more purpose than usual. But I noticed that most of the bars in the town were open even now, early in the afternoon. The human capacity to enjoy seemingly inextinguishable.
I wanted to go to Chaweng beach first, to see if it would jog my memory about the name of the hotel, to see what it looked like, the chances of survival. But ….. said that it would be difficult to get there, only emergency vehicles would be allowed through. There was nothing to see, nothing that would help us in our search.
So we went round the hospitals, one by one. There are many in Phuket, some of a very high standard. Today, even the best of them seemed as though under siege. Noticeboards had been put up with photos – the patients who had been brought in and not able to tell people who they were. Their faces were distorted with bruises and cuts, their eyes, if open, frightened, as though they could still see the wave coming towards them. I saw many young Europeans, clinging to each other and examining each of the photos closely as thought it would miraculously metamorphose into the person the one they loved. I was glad that I had not brought Jessica along. I met a man who told me he had been helping to carry bodies. The problem was, he said, that there were not enough places to keep them. Refrigerated trucks, normally used for transporting fish and meat, had been drafted in but there were still not enough. People were afraid that the bodies would have to be burned before they could be identified. There was a risk of disease. Bottled water was in short supply.
At the provincial hospital, it was hard to get in through the door. Women were sitting on the floor, rocking gently. wiping their eyes with checked cotton scarves. The photos here were muddy with fingerprints, from people reading the photos as though in Braille, feeling for a trace of their loved ones. I spoke gently to people in Thai, pushing a way through. Helpful people led me to the ‘farang board’, forgetting their grief enough to compliment me on my Thai, asking me how long I’d been here, wishing me luck in my search. It was on this board that I saw Sharon.
I too trailed my fingers across the photo, across her swollen bruised face and then downwards to the ward number. I held my thumbs up over the crowd so that Pee …. could see and then rushed towards the reception for directions. Up in the lift, along the corridor, almost running, and I was there. I had expected to find Sharon lying on the bed unconcious but she was sitting up staring around her, looking unbearably sad.
‘Sharon!’ I ran towards herself but stopped myself from hugging her when I saw the bruises and cuts on her face and arms. Her hands were tightly bandaged. Instead, I just stroked her hair as both of us cried, tears streaming down our faces unchecked.
‘Where’s Jessica?’ she managed at last.
‘With Pim, at Somchai’s mum’s house. Only a couple of hours away.’ Then I remembered the mobile phone. ‘Would you like to speak to her?’
She almost smiled. She reached her useless hands up to take the phone. But then: ‘What will I tell her about Alan?’
I hadn’t wanted to ask. I didn’t know what to say. I waited for her to tell the story.
‘He went down for a walk on the beach. You know me, never miss a chance to sleep in. I was going to join him later for a late breakfast.’
She began to cry again.
‘Sharon, there’s still hope, we mustn’t give up. I haven’t been to all the hospitals yet. Everything’s very confused. I think you should still talk to Jessica. Tell her I’m looking for Alan. She’s desperate to hear from you.’
I dialled the number and got Pee Dtim. I asked her to wake both Jessica and Pim up. I wanted Jessica to have someone with her when she heard the news.
Mothers have a built-in protection mechanism when dealing with their children. As soon as Sharon took the phone, her manner changed. Yes, she was fine, just a few bruises. No, she didn’t know where daddy was but we were looking for him. Jessica was not to worry. Yes, she could come and see her. Anne would arrange it. I could here the catches in Sharon’s voice but otherwise it was a convincing performance.
After the phone call, she had another little weep, while I sent Pee….. off to pick Jessica up. I told him which route to take, avoiding the worst of the devastation and the body trucks. I told Sharon I would continue to look for Alan but would be back in a few hours when Jessica was here.
I had lied to Sharon. There weren’t that many hospitals left to check. I’d heard that they were photographing bodies for identification, listing clothing and any jewellry. But I didn’t want to ask Sharon about identifying features yet. If Alan had been on the beach when the wave struck, his chances were slim. But he was fairly fit, others had escaped. It was too early to give up.

Sharon had to stay in the hospital for the next few days. She had some nasty gashes that had to be monitored and most of her fingers had been broken. The she would have to be medivacced home and receive further treatment there. Sharon didn’t want to leave Phuket while there was still a chance of finding Alan. Now that Jessica was with her, her only concern was to find him. I continued to do the rounds, even going up to Chaweng and showing his photo to local people, the waiters and waitresses in the bars and restaurants that had already started to open up again.
In one restaurant, I saw a crowd of young farangs wearing T-shirts and shorts, looking exhausted. After I had asked my usual questions and the waitress had shook her head sympathetically and promised to let me know if she saw Alan, one of them said, ‘You speak Thai?’
‘Yes, I used to live here.’
‘Do you have time to help? We’re working at one of the centres for missing people, helping those who’ve come to find friends and relatives. We need someone who can liaise with the Thai hospitals and authorities. Some of the staff speak English, but many don’t. It would make things easier for people if they had someone to translate.’
I was taken aback by this request. I was here to find Alan. But helping others might just help me find him. Before I’d had time to think about it too much, I had said yes.
Privately I was fairly sure Alan could not have survived. He would surely have sought Sharon out by now if he were alive. I had been to every hospital in Phuket. But it seemed to reassure Saron when I went out busy each day. At some point she would have to accept that he wasn’t coming back, but that could wait until her physical condition improved. I arranged with the hospital for her to be taken to Somchai’s father’s house. He hired a private nurse to take care of her. The aunt’s were delighted to have a farang to look after and Sharon was a lot more patient with them than I had ever been.
I threw myself into my new work. At first, much of my time was spent on the phone, trying to get information. But gradually I realised that it was better to go and see people, talk to them personally. People were too busy to answer the phone and, if I went to see them, they would often let me look at the records myself. Occasionally, I was the bringer of good news and I witnessed a couple of emotional reunions. More often, like Sharon, the searchers had to make do with no news. I als had to go to where the bodies were stored and help people look through the photos of the dead. The photos were horrific and many of them were surely unrecognisable. I dreaded coming across Alan’s face here. It would be months before all the bodies were identified. There would be a long period of knowing and not knowing for many of us.
I stayed in a cheap hotel room in Phuket. I had not seen Pim for almost a week. When I rang her, she said she had been with her grandfather to Nang Rong. The situation was terrible, she said. A lot of the children and women had been swept away. The boats had all been destroyed. With her aunt …. she had set up a nursery for those children who had lost parents. Grandfather was going to provide new housing and boats.
Somchai had hated charity. He had hated the patronage of wealthy Thais, bestowing gifts on their less fortunate compatriots to make merit for themselves. But, at this moment, charity was what was needed, just to get people back on their feet. Somchai’s father was doing it for his son, who had given everything for that village. He had never approved of his son’s work, believing that anyone could work their way out of poverty if they tried hard enough. But this was a disaster, unpredictable and unavoidable. He was moved by pity to help those who had suffered, to keep his son’s legacy alive. What he was doing was more worthy than what I was doing. Tragedy can affect anyone, rich or poor. But the foreigners would soon be back in their home countries, in their comfortable homes with enough food to eat. They would have access to good medical care and professional counsellors. This would not lessen their grief, but they would be materially well-provided for. The villagers of Nang Rong had lost their homes and livelihoods and support from the government would be patchy at best. I could disapprove of patronage in theory, but I knew that they would be grateful that someone powerful and wealthy was concerned for their welfare.
So we all kept busy but time moved on. Jessica and Pim needed to be back at school. Sharon needed an expert to look at her hands. There was no news of Alan.
‘He’s dead, isn’t he?’ Sharon said to me one day when I visited her at the house.
I nodded. ‘If he was alive, we would have heard by now.’
‘He only came here because I wanted a tropical holiday. He hated the heat.’ She laughed sadly but did not cry. All that would come later. I knew how these things went. I squeezed her hand.
‘You need to explain to Jessica. Tell her it’s time to leave.’
‘Yes, I think she knows really but, like me, doesn’t want to say it. Do you think we’ll ever find his body?’
‘Eventually, yes. But I don’t think it’s necessarily something you’ll want to look at then. Better to remember him alive. I’ve been there every day. Jessica needs to give a DNA sample to go with the description you’ve already given. Then all we can do is wait.’
‘I couldn’t even remember what he was wearing. What kind of wife am I?’
‘A good one,’ I said, hugging her.
‘Book the tickets, Anne. It’s time we went home.”
I told the people at the centre for missing people that I was leaving. The number of new searchers had slowed to a trickle anyway now and the Thai government had assigned English-speaking staff to deal with their queries. It was mainly a matter of identifying bodies now.
I went out with Pim to visit Nang Rong. She had said nothing when I announced we were returning. This would be her last day with the children. I watched her playing with them and saw how much they enjoyed her company. She had her father’s gift of being with people just as they are, not expecting anything, just enjoying.
‘Are you sorry to leave?’ I asked her as we ate a meagre lunch of rice and dried fish.
‘The Aunties said I should stay. There’s lots to do here and of course Grandfather would pay my school fees.’
‘Would you let me?’
‘You’ve shown you can cope on your own and you’ve been a great support to Jessica and these children. I’d be very lonely without you. I think you’ll get a better education in England but certainly you could live more comfortably here. In the end it’s up to you to choose.’
‘I was tempted at first. I still feel so much more at home here. But I’ve seen what it’s like for the children who’ve lost their parents. I miss Dad every day. I don’t want to miss you too.’
I smiled at her and held her hand.
‘Pim, I’m sorry. I wasn’t really ‘there’ for you when we were in England. I was too preoccupied with my own life. I’ll try and be better when we get back.’
‘It’s OK, Mum,’ said Pim, embarrassed now. ‘Can you leave me alone with the children now? I want to say goodbye.’
I walked to the place where Somchai had planted the trees. It was behind a slight rise. He had chosen well and they had escaped the wave. As I got nearer, I felt my eyes filling up. By the time I got to the first tree, I was on my knees sobbing. Not for all the lives lost, not with relief because Pim and I understood one another again. I was crying for Somchai, the man I had not loved enough when I was alive, the marriage I had almost regretted.
When I had finished, I sat on the rough ground and looked at the trees, maybe an inch or two taller than when I had last seen them, healthy and proud, and I felt my love, not only for Somchai, but for this beautiful countryside and the people in it, throbbing inside me. I vowed to come back and visit with Pim every year, even if I had to ask Somchai’s father for the airfare. My relationship with this place needn’t end with Somchai, it would just continue differently.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

CarolineSG at 14:05 on 25 May 2006  Report this post
It's hard to know how to comment properly when I have only read (two, I think) earlier chapters. I think that's all you've posted in this group? Anyway, I found this extremely moving and it had a very strong ring of truth about it - (if you don't mind me saying, I would be astonished if it were completely fictional).
I don't understand the spaces instead of names and a couple of phrases -'farangs' and 'Medivacc-ed', although I could make an educated guess.
Do think a bit more context is needed if you want useful comments, but hope this helps.

Kia at 11:39 on 26 May 2006  Report this post
Hi Aspara,

Like Caroline, I’m not sure how to comment on the general thrust of the story and development of the characters without reading any of the previous chapters or a synopsis.

You describe the protagonist’s search for her friends very movingly. It reads rather like a letter, but perhaps this is because I’ve read the chapter out of context and you’ve obviously assumed a degree of background knowledge from the reader.

I was intrigued by this line:
… not with relief because Pim and I understood one another again.
Pim and her mother seem to have a very close relationship in this chapter so I was surprised to learn that previously there was some misunderstanding or distance between them. I didn’t notice a thawing in this extract – a noticeable change from one state to another – but perhaps you’ve already set this up in the previous chapter?

I like your clear lucid style and I found the following phrases particularly evocative:
an expanse of blue deceitful sea

Their faces were distorted with bruises and cuts, their eyes, if open, frightened, as though they could still see the wave coming towards them.

The photos here were muddy with fingerprints, from people reading the photos as though in Braille, feeling for a trace of their loved ones.


chris2 at 18:45 on 29 May 2006  Report this post
Apsara - This chapter describes a very harrowing situation and series of associated events and the author's familiarity with them communicates itself unmistakably to the reader. We cannot help but identify with the affected characters and we are impelled to carry on reading at every stage because of the gravity of the events for them. However, the opening of the novel - posted as Where We Started (Working Title) - also dealt with a harrowing incident - the death of Somchai - and I felt that the earlier chapter worked much more effectively than the later one, even though the content of the later one was much more substantial. I have tried to work out why this is and have come up with the following with which others will probably thoroughly disagree.

In the opening chapter events and dialogue are used sparingly and there is a great deal of detail and internal observation (very effectively executed) both of which truly connect the reader both with the place and with the character.

In the later chapter, I felt that the detail and observation were limited to the event-narrative itself, that your urgent need to communicate to us the awfulness of the situation has caused you to neglect the earlier approach and restrict yourself purely to narrating the sequence of events and associated dialogue. I think that there is enough event-content in this chapter to provide two or even three chapters in each of which the relentless sequence of events is broken up by some of the careful internal observation which you used earlier. This observation need not just be about herself but of the other characters also (as she understands them). I don't mean that there's none of this in it at the moment, but the balance is overwhelmingly towards just things happening. Nor do I think that any of the event-narration is superfluous - it just needs to be expanded to provide the approach that made the opening chapter so effective.

I realise this these events must be a sensitive area for you but hope that these comments will be useful rather than not.

A few minor editing points:

I could hear [here] the catches in Sharon's voice

Then [the] she would have to be medivacced…

The aunts [aunt's] were delighted…

'I squeezed her hand' - weren't both her hands seriously injured?


apsara at 06:03 on 07 June 2006  Report this post
Thanks for your thoughtful comments - I realise I haven't been giving you blow by blow chapters so it's difficult for you to know what has happened - I have written a lot of this novel but some parts feel much weaker than others.
Thanks chris2 - echoes what I had been feeling but not articulating - I can see that I have moved forward too quickly in this chapter and agree that it should be two or three - I will work on this but not till after my summer hols which start next week...

Beadle at 11:57 on 01 July 2006  Report this post
Hi Aspara

I though this was very interesting and using the tsunami as a canvas for your chapter was potentially very powerful.

As I have not read any previous chapters, I don’t know the characters or story well enough to have an emotional buy-in straight away.

I felt that there was so much happening here and so many points and issues that are probably pivotal to the whole story – enough probably for a whole book.

There is the widow’s return to Thailand, dealing with memories of her dead husband and her obvious anxiety at being back with his family; there is the reconciliation with her daughter (understanding each other again); the daughter’s own ghosts and feelings about returning to Thailand (and having to decide whether to stay or not); her worries about the safety of her grandparents and family – and that is not even mentioning the whole sub-story of the safety of the MC’s sister and husband, the concerns of their daughter, finding her safe and well, but not finding the husband.

As the narrative unfolded it felt very confident, flowed very well and worked well. There was good detail and the feeling was not overdone. However, I felt that as there was so much plot that some of the key events were not emotionally satisfying.

Reaching the Thai family and finding them safe, for example, felt a little anti-climatic. Finding her sister safe also felt strangely muted, which was fine in itself, but I felt the shift from this event to the MC’s meeting with the aid workers and her then working in an aid capacity happened too quickly.

Similarly the daughter’s efforts in helping the poor people in the village with her grandfather’s help, which was obviously against his normal character, seemed a bit rushed – almost like an afterthought rather than a strong element of the story.

It felt like this was a bridge between two different sections of the story, and I would like to have a bit more space around the events – a bit more feel.

It is interesting to note from a previous comment (Chris I think) that he felt that the telling of the events surrounding the Tsunami lacked the impact of previous tragic events told by you in other chapters.

I also felt that it lacked a real sense of place, although the hurly burly of post-Tsunami events was well drawn.

Having visited Thailand and other parts of South East Asia, this is a story that I would be very interested in and there are some really compelling events taking place. But I felt I would like to been drawn into some of the individual events more deeply – the sister’s story, the MC’s return to Thailand – to make it wholly satisfying.

I hope this is useful


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .