What on earth would prompt a woman to leave her home, her beloved husband, small child, and puppy behind? Emily Coleman has the seemingly-perfect life and yet all is not well, and she’s convinced it will be better for Ben and Charlie if she leaves them behind. The intensity and finality of her choice is made clear when she removes her heavy wedding ring and leaves it on the sink of a bathroom in a train station, an irrevocable ultimatum.
Emily’s been planning this for a while. Her full name is Catherine Emily and she never got around to replacing her passport after marriage with her new last name, so she starts life over as Cat Brown. She heads to London, where with many fits and starts she begins to find her feet, thanks in part to the kind but quirky Angel, who’s struggling with the demons of her own past. Emily/Cat starts out well, still the good girl, but spirals downward into some self-destructive behaviour.
Laced throughout the book are flashbacks giving insight into Emily’s past, both familial and as an adult. Emily’s a twin but her mother didn’t know about the second child until the actual delivery, and Caroline grew up knowing she was unwanted. She spends her life trying to replace her twin and win her mother’s approval, both doomed actions. As a teen and adult, she struggles with eating disorders, drug abuse, and more, and is a complex and difficult character who surely has something to do with Emily’s disappearance. Meanwhile, the girls’ father Andrew, a serial philanderer and most unsympathetic character, moves from one affair to another, missing out on family life entirely. We see Emily and Ben fall in love (they work for the same law firm), and their idyllic life with their small child. We know Emily had a miscarriage, but surely that wouldn’t be enough to give up her life for?
Normally, I would never support someone just leaving their family one morning without even a goodbye, but I found myself rooting for Emily/Cat throughout. She just didn’t seem the person to take such a decision lightly. Throughout One Step Too Far, we are given hints as to the actual catalyst that caused Emily to leave, but author Tina Seskis keeps it hidden until the actual reveal. I have to admit I gasped out loud. I think she did a fantastic job with it. She kept my faith through all the many twists and turns of the plot.
I loved One Step Too Far. I think it would be a perfect book to while away a summer afternoon or to take on vacation to make those interminable hours in the airport speed by or to read in snatches whenever you can find a moment. Although it is a plot-driven book and you are gasping with impatience to figure out what’s happened and what’s going to happen, it is in fact rich with character development and the effects of dysfunctional families on adult children. Highly, highly recommended.