How much do we owe who we are, to our parents?

For the next few weeks I’m going to post extracts from my books, starting with my latest, The Thread That Binds Us, a 21st century novel that looks at love and relationships, particularly between parents and children. How much do we owe who we are, to the parents who brought us up?


While Graham dialled 999 and explained about the break-in, Susan went to check on her office. Just as she had expected, her computer had gone, together with the printer, scanner and her laptop. The drawers of her desk hung open and their contents was scattered on the floor. Her notes for the next day, so meticulously prepared, had been swept onto the floor along with everything else. She knelt down and picked them up, sorting them carefully back into order before replacing them in their file. The burglars had gone through everything, had touched all aspects of her life. She felt violated. In a minute she would have to go into her bedroom and see what damage they had done in there. 
Then she saw it, open, under the table where they’d thrown it. Her father’s wallet. When she had cleared out his belongings after he died, she couldn’t bring herself to throw it out, and it had been at the back of her desk drawer ever since. It was old and battered, black leather worn with use, and contained only an old library card, a photo of her as an eight-year-old and a ten-shilling note—a relic from pre-decimalisation days. Not surprisingly, the burglars had taken nothing from it. She picked the wallet up and held it to her face. It still smelled of her father, that distinctive tang of cigarettes and after-shave. Idly she undid each compartment, unzipping the purse section, looking carefully for anything she had missed. The photo was still there, even more faded than ever and the plastic covering that protected it was dirty, stained brown from nicotine, like so many other things in her parents’ house had been, so she gently pulled it out, curious to see if she could recognise her younger self. As she did so, another photograph fell to the ground. She picked it up and peered at it. Against a woodland background stood two smiling people, one clearly identifiable as her father and the other a woman. Was that her mother? No, impossible. This woman had long blonde hair and her mother’s had been as black as a raven’s wing, that was how her father had described it once. Her aunt maybe? She too had been dark-haired, as were all her father’s family.


Joan Fallon is a writer and novelist living in Spain.