In 1992, Lizzie Howe was waved off at a train station by her husband and two young daughters as she set off to teach at summer school for a week. At the end of that week, Lizzie was due to meet her family at the seaside for a holiday. After arriving at his mother’s house in Suffolk, Lizzie’s husband Jeremy was left irritated by the fact that Lizzie should have called to say goodnight to the girls but that call didn’t come. In the middle of the night, a policeman visited Jeremy at his mother’s house to inform him that Lizzie had been the victim of a brutal, seemingly random attack. Lizzie had been murdered in her office.
Twenty years on, Jeremy Howe reflects on how Lizzie’s murder changed his family’s life. This memoir shares how, moment by moment, day by day, the family regrouped and coped faced with such an unimaginable situation. There is so much packed into this book; how Jeremy decided to be honest with the girls regarding their mother’s death, the thoughts that haunt a widower flung into a life of mummydaddy-dom with no preparation whatsoever.
When I first started reading this book, I thought it was fiction. I thought the author was over-egging the pudding with his melancholic, emotional narrative. However, when I revisited the synopsis and realised that this was a true story, I had nothing but respect for Jeremy Howe. Having read obituaries of Lizzie Howe, if anything, Jeremy played down how successful his wife was. The determination shown by Howe to provide emotionally and financially for his girls is admirable.
Howe’s memories of certain people and events are unflinchingly honest and feature a certain sense of awkwardness. It goes to show how insensitive and thoughtless some people are – and how careless some organisations are – in such a painful situation.
I will never know how Jeremy and his daughters felt regarding the loss of Lizzie but this story goes a long way to help the reader understand the profound grief involved and, thankfully, is testament to the fact that – no matter what horrible situation you find yourself in – goodness prevails.