Title: Waiting for the Other Shoe
Author: Maggie Handsley
Publishing Date: July, 2008
Waiting for the Other Shoe is a work of fiction, and British fiction at that. More precisely, the story takes place in northern England. Since the British haven't perfected the language yet, as we Americans have, you will have to expect an overuse of vowels and an odd word here and there that may only be understood in context, but it's not that hard to follow. The book is well-written, and the story flows smoothly enough. Waiting for the Other Shoe is a novel, and as well rounded a novel as any I've read recently. While reactive attachment disorder is central to the story, the novel is about more than that; it also concerns itself with the relationships of everyone else who is caught up in it.
The story itself is fiction, but the author was obviously very much familiar with reactive attachment disorder. A reader who has parented a child with reactive attachment disorder will recognize it early on, that is not the case in the story. For one thing, the tale begins in 1990, and attachment disorders were not well known or accepted in England at that time, as remains the case today in much of the world, including the United States, and probably more so in the United Kingdom.
As the story begins in the spring of 1990, David and Annie Neill are meeting the young girl who they are about to adopt for the first time. She is just an infant yet, and unable to speak, but as Annie holds her not-yet-adopted young child for the first time, the girl kicks her in the ribs. That was a sign of more to come, but of course no one knew that at the time.
But I don't want to retell the story here, and risk spoiling it for those who have yet to read the novel. Despite the familiar tragedies of reactive attachment disorder, you will find this to be an enjoyable read. You won't know whether to laugh or cry, as it says on the bottom of the front cover.
You will come to know many of the characters in this book very well, and you will learn to care about them, some more so than others. There is good and bad in each of them, although the balance differed from one character to another.
Annie's first name was actually Ann; an indefinite article, for God's sake. That bothered her so that she renamed herself Annabel, and made up her mind that any child of hers would have a name that was at least three syllables long. As it was, Annabel didn't last long as a name, since it was so readily shortened to Annie, which is what she had been called anyhow.
Annie met David in college and they married, yet he proved to be overbearing and not nearly as helpful as she needed him to be. Their adopted daughter is Bethany, three syllables that no one feels the need to shorten to Beth. Although a central figure in the story, you don't really get to know Bethany, and that cannot be said to be a flaw in the writing.
She comes off as a bit pompous at first, but David's mother becomes an endearing character in the story, making up for all of her son's faults. With no training and without even a diagnosis, she had the makings of an attachment therapist. Given the proper setting, she would give Nancy Thomas a run for her money.
Annie's own parents don't play as large a part, and they are on the other end of the balance scale from her mother-in-law, but they are there through part of the story, anyhow. None of the characters are perfect, but neither are they wholly devoid of redeeming value.
Maura wavers somewhere in the middle of the balance scale. She means well most of the time but she doesn't really get it, and her advice consists largely of New Age psychobabble, yet she fills a hole in Annie's life that is sorely in need of filling; she is Annie's best friend, playing a necessary role in the lives of those around her.
There are also Horace, Andrew, and others who will become a part of your life for the time that you are reading this novel.
If I were to have learned that Waiting for the Other Shoe had been written by an experienced parent of a child with reactive attachment disorder, or by an attachment therapist, I would be greatly impressed; with the writing itself, and with the obvious appreciation for what it would be like to parent an undiagnosed child with this disorder. From her story, it is clear that she knows the way in which such children can destroy families and ruin relationships between everyone who ever tries to love them.
Interestingly, she is not a therapist and she has never parented a child with reactive attachment disorder. She had no significant problems raising her own two daughters, now grown. She learned from watching a friend who adopted a child with reactive attachment disorder, and from her many years of teaching. Like Annie, the chief protagonist in her story, she was a teacher, retiring in 2002 at the age of 61.
Doubly amazing, is that this is her first novel. After retiring from teaching, she took a Master of Arts in creative writing through the University of Leeds and enrolled in a course of study with the novelist, Linda Green. Prior to Waiting for the Other Shoe, she had written some short stories but had never had her work published.
The reader who is familiar with reactive attachment disorder will gain a greater appreciation for the book, while the reader who is not will gain a greater appreciation for those who are parenting such children, as well as those who are providing appropriate therapy.
Oh, I should mention that if this were a movie it would probably be rated "R" for sexual scenes and language. I did not find it to be gratuitous, but instead chalked it up to the fact that the English aren't as civilized as we Americans are, that said with tongue tucked firmly in cheek.
At the time, the book is not not registered for sale in the United States so you can't order it from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. You can, however, do what I did, and order it from Amazon.co.uk and other places which are described on the author's web site. It's only 6.39 pounds from Amazon.co.uk. I don't remember what that came out to in dollars, but it wasn't very much for 366 terrific pages. Yes, folks; it's a global world and you're allowed to order stuff from the Brits.