Sampler: Things Fall Apart by Sharon Brownlie
March 21, 2023
Review: A compelling and gripping story full of heartache and tension as one woman fights for the lives of her sons.
An emotional journey of awakening, through broken trust, heartbreak, and family conflict.
Despite being at the depths of despair, in the face of adversity, there is always a belief for the promise of a hopeful future.
This is a coming of age story with a difference.
It’s 35 year old single mother Mandy who is forced to mature and grow up quickly, by the time we reach the final chapters of this incredible chronicle that takes us from the blindness of naivety into pain, despair and eventually, at great cost, the maturity of hard-won wisdom.
Set in the mid nineteen eighties, Edinburgh is a city dubbed as the drug’s capital of Europe, a place where Mandy faces a mother’s worst nightmare.
The warning signs are staring her in the face, but at first she doesn’t heed them.
All she wants to do is love, nurture and protect her family, but despite all her efforts she has to stand by, watching helplessly as it fragments, and things fall apart.
How does she bring things to a peaceful conclusion?
Is it even possible?
The traffic coming from the west end of Edinburgh was light for a Friday afternoon. The bus journey was uncomfortable in the June heat. I tried to open a window but it was stuck fast. Sweat trickled down my neck and the body odour of others hung heavy in the air. When I got off halfway down Leith Walk, it was just after four o’clock. Another week over and another few quid in my purse, I smiled as I headed home to my kids.
I heard a shout from somewhere right behind me.
“Now, go. Get it now.”
As I turned around, a teenage lad wearing a baseball cap and a bright blue shell suit came hurtling towards me. Another young lad followed close behind. He was dressed much the same except for the cap; all he sported was a shaven head.
Their footsteps pounded down hard on the pavement. I was afraid they would knock me over, so I moved aside out of their way. Instead of running past, they deliberately ran straight into me.
Shaken and stunned, I tried to get up, but one of the lads grabbed my jacket. He held on while the other one tried to snatch my bag, but I clung on. My whole week’s wages were in it. There was no way in this world I was parting with them.
“Fucking grab it, Tosh,” one of them shouted.
I held it tighter as the Tosh character grappled with me.
“I’m trying, dickhead,” he shouted back to his mate.
Tosh may have had youth on his side, but he was no match for me.
He gripped my fingers and tried to prise them from my bag. All I could do think of to do was bend forward and clamp my pearly whites on his bony fingers. He yelped as I bit down as hard as I could.
I broke free from the thug holding me down and scrambled to my feet. Close up they were small lads, smaller than me, and I’m only five feet two. The pair stood still, mouths gaping, and I faced them up.
I took a step towards them and screamed, “Back off, you little shits, or I’ll give you both a bloody good hiding.” The two boys took a pace back and were staring at me.
A familiar voiced called, “Amanda.”
It was old Mrs Howden from the local bakery shop.
“Bloody hooligans,” Mrs Howden shouted. “I’ve called the police. They are on their way.”
The lads looked over at her; they seemed hesitant and didn’t have a clue what to do next. Tosh decided for them. “Run. Let’s get outta here.”
They took to their heels and ran off. At least, they didn’t get my purse. The lads had left me with a sore backside, and a bruised ego.
Mrs Howden suggested I go into her shop until I caught my breath. The smell of freshly baked bread and cakes wafted throughout the place.
“I’ll make you a cuppa. Go on through to the back. Are you sure you’re okay, Amanda?”
I winced at the name. My name was – and is – Mandy, Mandy McCabe. Six years I’d been living in Albert Street, but she still insisted on calling me, Amanda.
“I didn’t call the police,” she explained. “I only said that to put the frighteners up them, but I can if you want.”
“No, it’s okay.”
There was no point in calling the boys in blue. I wouldn’t be able to identify the two youngsters, plus they didn’t take anything from me. I wanted to forget the whole episode.
“At least, you’re not hurt, Amanda, I wrote down one of the names; Tosh
“I got both names,” I said.
She raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“Tosh, and Dickhead.” I sniggered and had to bite my lip to stop from laughing at my own joke.
It didn’t amuse Mrs Howden in the least. She pursed her lips and let out a sigh.
Old Mrs Howden crossed her arms over her large, rounded stomach and said, “I blame the drugs, and the bloody parents, too. They don’t have a clue or give a damn about them. Children these days are all the same, running wild.”
The old brass bell hanging on her shop door rang. Mrs Howden said she would be back once she’d served the customer. She left me to sit and drink my tea.
Please click HERE to find Things Fall Apart on Amazon.