cover image The Unknown Bridesmaid

The Unknown Bridesmaid

Margaret Forster. Europa (Penguin, dist.), $16 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-60945-222-3

With integrity and insight, Forster (Georgy Girl) portrays a London child psychologist whose painful past won't let her go. Julia learned early in life from her mother, who never shared the mystery of her absent father, that secrecy is a helpful "policy of self-protection." So lying came easily for young Julia when adults questioned her about a fateful, terrible afternoon. Julia's story begins as an eight-year-old bridesmaid for her cousin, Iris, whose joy was shortlived with her new husband. Happiness returns to the family when Iris becomes a mother. Entrusted with Iris's newborn, Julia secretly takes the baby for a forbidden walk, but the pram tips on its side by accident. Julia never divulges her secret walk, setting in motion the guilt that will define much of her life. More unhappiness is to come, and by high school, Julia is miserable, living with Iris's young family; she becomes adept at lying, cheating, stealing, and terrorizing them. Julia leaves for college, severing ties with her relatives. Years pass, and Julia becomes well-known for her work with troubled girls%E2%80%94dialogue from her patient sessions alternates with scenes of her childhood. Julia's youthful indiscretions do not hold her back professionally, yet she longs for forgiveness. In the end, a stranger inadvertently provides the impetus, leading to a life-changing decision. Forster's complicated portrait is affecting and memorable. (Sept.)