The strapline on Jenny Harper’s website reads Jenny Harper Author “Writing about strong women under pressure” â€” and in her second novel “Loving Susie”, that is exactly what you get.
Susie Wallace has already enjoyed one highly successful career as an actress and now she is an MSP â€“ with principles. Â Writers are told to write about what they know and Jenny has an inside view of the Scottish Parliament from her illustrious husband Robin, Scotland and Britain’s first Green Party Parliamentarian. While Jenny deftly avoids any details of party politics, she is able to write with authority on the processes, the incredible time constraints and grasshopper-like mind that an MSP must have.
Her husband also discovered, at the age of 50, that he had an older half brother. She says, “His story didn’t inspire this one, but aspects of his journey helped me to understand what an adopted person goes through in the search for their birth mother. David’s story is told in Robin’s autobiography, Dear Mr Harper, published by Birlinn.
As Jenny says, her stories place her heroines into a situation where a lifestyle that is high-pressured because of a career choice is placed under even more pressure because of a lifestyle choice. Loving Susie is written in the present tense because, she says, “I love writing in present tense. I feel closer to the characters. I know some readers don’t like it but I hope it doesn’t put them off. Personally, I find I don’t notice it after the first page or two when I’m reading.”
In Loving Susie, our energetic politician has time for everyone but herself, but when her previous assumptions about her upbringing are brought to question, she has a lot to deal with. The consequences of tracing a mother who gave you up for adoption can have many potential outcomes and implications, for everyone in the family, and once the can is opened, there is no knowing where her liberated worms might wriggle.
Enraged by the fact that her adopted parents took her husband into their secret and he never disclosed what he knew, she cuts herself off from the one person who might have held her hand through this. Yet there is a slight niggle here, as Susie herself has kept a secret from Archie â€“ or thinks she has.
Nevertheless, encouraged by her daughter, Susie decides to go ahead and trace her birth mother. In this case, it’s a simple process, as her natural mother made her contact details available. However, the worms wriggle in unexpected directions and everyone in Susie’s family suffers. How she, Archie, daughter Margaret-Anne and son Jon work through the problems besetting their work and personal lives are deeply moving and the solution far from obvious. I confess to worrying about it for several nights.
There is, however, a happy ending â€“ Jenny’s writing hits where it hurts but it heals as well as she demonstrates how resourceful people are, especially when they allow love to have its irrational place in their lives.