Festival of Chichester event explores the healing power of sharing

Where Angels Tread brings together two authors and two very different books for the Festival of Chichester.

Monday, 21st June 2021, 8:05 am
Helen Garlick credit Lucy Williams Photography
Helen Garlick credit Lucy Williams Photography

Helen Garlick’s memoir uncovers family secrets and their corrosive effects. Suzanne Alderson’s book Never Let Go offers a way forward for parents of children experiencing mental illness.

They will speak about their writing on June 27 from 3.30-5pm in the Vicars Hall. Kim’s Bookshop Chichester will be attending the event and signed copies of the books will be available to buy.

Fernhurst author Helen kept a promise she made to herself 40 years ago with her new book No Place to Lie (Whitefox, £9.99) to tell the true story behind her younger brother David’s death in 1981.

“I knew I couldn’t write it until after both my parents had died as confronting the truth would be too hard for them to bear. My dad died in 2014, then my mum in 2017 – then amazingly she left behind a secret she took to her grave, which was such a shock for the whole family so I decided to write about that too.”

Helen has specialised in talking solutions throughout her career as a lawyer but ironically, this was something that was not encouraged in her own family.

When her brother David shot himself in February 1981, Helen’s father Geoffrey fought to have the verdict of ‘suicide’ overturned.

For the rest of his life, he liked to believe that an intruder had killed his son or that there had been an accident. The word suicide was taboo.

Then, when Helen’s mother Monica died in December 2017, she found some scribblings on the back of an old envelope about her having been ‘afflicted’ (her choice of word).

Married for 59 years and a doting grandmother, nobody would have suspected that in reality, she was a lesbian, too afraid to admit the truth about her sexuality. Helen later discovered that a long-time family friend had been her mother’s lover.

“Readers’ responses to No Place to Lie have blown me away. The personal messages I’ve received have moved me to tears sometimes – heartfelt emails, texts, letters telling me how much the book means to them, words like life-changing, hope and courage.

“No Place to Lie took me 40 years to write. I’ve distilled what I’ve learned as a family lawyer – and just life really – over that time.

“I’ve started a YouTube channel called Hello! It’s Better to Talk about the healing power of opening up, sharing secrets. The book has helped heal me too. It’s opening ourselves up to our own vulnerability that gives us great strength. There is nothing so powerful as owning our own story, recognising life’s challenges as part of our hero’s journey and how overcoming them makes you stronger.”

As Helen explains: “This feels like the most important thing I’ve done in my life. I want to get other people talking about burdens they carry and secrets they’ve held within which have been toxic for them. I’ve found that whenever I talk about the secrets in the book with other people, it’s helped unlock things for them too. People who have read the book so far say it’s amazingly relatable and they couldn’t put the book down. It’s ultimately got a very uplifting message about how to find joy in your life even after trauma and grief.

“I really want to save lives by writing this book – suicide prevention is a key aim – and also help people find their joy and resilience in their world. I would love everyone to read this book – if they ever find life tough and they feel lost and isolated, please read the book!

“It was a very therapeutic process writing the book – and I found out so much I hadn’t known before. Some days were tough, some exhilarating – the important thing was just to keep on going, one step at a time.

“The book starts on the day of my mother’s funeral in Brill in Buckinghamshire when I am twisting an opal ring of my mother’s on my little finger, watching it flash pink, blue and turquoise. The ring is symbolic of my mother – hidden, beautiful, mysterious. We then get transported back to March 1 1981, to the day that my life changed forever.”