The Park is the third novel by South African author, Gail Schimmel. The story is narrated by Rebecca, a well-known painter and an adoptive mother of a three year old daughter, Amy. In the afternoons, Rebecca takes Amy to the neighbourhood park. On two separate occasions, she meets Rose and Lilith – two mothers with daughters the same age and the three of them quickly strike up a friendship.
The three woman soon become very close friends, in which they spent most afternoons at the park as well as visiting each other’s’ homes and organizing play dates for their daughters. However, Lilith and Rebecca starts developing a closer friendship with each other than that of her and Rose. Lilith, the woman who is very overprotective of her daughter, suddenly starts trusting Rebecca to look after her daughter, Ruby-Mae when she isn’t able to. Rose seem to take offense to the fact that Lilith chose Rebecca over her.
Ruby-Mae soon becomes comfortable and at ease in Rebecca’s household, so when the unconceivable happens, Ruby-Mae’s adjustment to her new circumstances, although difficult and tragic seems to be easier for her to process. Rebecca, who has struggled with fertility issues in the past has finally fallen pregnant, but her joy was momentarily overshadowed by her concern for Ruby-Mae.
When she eventually come to terms with what happened, she is shocked to find that her friend, Rose has turned on her completely. Just when she needed her support the most. During this time, while reading the story, I was very concerned for Rebecca and feared the worst to happen (I don’t have to say it), but Rebecca has come out stronger and happier.
The story deals with many different family dynamics and struggles. Her daughter, Amy is mixed race and her in laws are not particularly accepting of their grandchild. Her struggle with infertility was also compassionately dealt with. I really did feel sad for her when she had to deal with failed IVF treatment yet again.
I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with this novel and felt that Rebecca’s circumstances (having an interracial family, fertility issues, miscarriages, etc) was tastefully described. The Park is by no means a happy story, but it’s a story that I would definitely want to read again. I wish that Rose’s intentions for her actions were a little bit more fleshed out, but there are enough information in the story for the reader to make an accurate assumption: that it was fuelled by jealousy.
If you enjoy reading family dramas and want to support South African fiction more, I would highly recommend picking up The Park. In fact, if the novel sounds interesting to you and like something you would want to read, please feel free to enter the give-away as Panmacmillan, who sent me the book to partake in their blog tour, has generously offered a copy of the book to one of my readers.
Please follow the rest of the book tour on the other blogs that are participating. The program is as follows: