Moira Forsyth's "A Message From The Other Side" is a gripping account of what, to all intents and purposes, seem ordinary lives, but turn out to be anything but. Catherine and Helen are two sisters, whose paths have been shaped by a less than ideal childhood. Both married young and whilst those marriages ended, for each of them in the saddest of circumstances, they have picked themselves up and moved on. Whilst Catherine is moved by the presence of the spirits of those she has loved and lost as she goes about her daily life, often to the extent of thinking she sees them, Helen takes a more matter of fact approach and sets about building a new life grounded firmly in the present. So when Catherine relocates to Scotland to try and escape her past, Helen stays rooted in London, facing the future head on.
Catherine finds herself living and working close to Helen's ex-husband, Hugh, who introduces her to his friends, brothers Kenneth and Gilbert. Catherine and Kenneth sense an immediate attraction and embark upon a fiery relationship that eventually results in a second marriage for each of them. Back in London, Helen meets the mysterious and attractive Joe and, soon, they too are a couple. But Joe keeps much of his life a secret and whilst Helen fears that he may be mixed up in something that she would disapprove of, she turns a blind eye, until one day he just ups and leaves her.
The lives of these characters are interwoven, destined to be dragged into the present by an intriguing turn of events that first sees both Joe and Gilbert disappear. Whilst relationships become strained to breaking point, the ever dependable Hugh becomes the cement that keeps their foundering lives interconnected. When he faces illness alone, Catherine and Kenneth share in the responsibility of caring for him and they pull together when in other circumstances they might sever the bonds and move on.
"A Message From The Other Side" is a sad tale. As a reader you approach it with a sense of foreboding; with a sense that this is not a story whose ending is going to provide a happy ever after. But the level of suspense that builds throughout, and is dispelled at various points when what happens is not what you would expect, leaves the reader hopeful that, despite the tension, there may still be something good to come out of this. Whatever the ending - and you will have to read the book yourself to find out what it is - this is a strangely uplifting book. Whilst allowing the reader to experience the loves and losses of its characters, and to share in them, Moira Forsyth provides a sensitive and deeply moving account of the trials we all may face in living our everyday lives.