Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 13, 2023

I’ll Leave You With This (2023) by Kylie Ladd

I’m reading some rather heavy-duty NF books at the moment, so I was in the mood to read something less demanding.  As you know from my recent post about a local author event (Kylie Ladd in conversation with Bayside author Sally Hepworth), I had read the Prologue to I’ll Leave You with This almost as soon as I got home.  It’s a compelling introduction to the issue explored in this thoughtful novel: organ donation, and how families handle its complexities.

Sometimes, grief about the loss of a family member is about the only thing families have in common. Of a family of five siblings, four sisters remain to grieve the loss of their brother Daniel who was shot and killed on the streets of Sydney.   At the time they willingly agree to donating his organs, but on the third anniversary of his death, Clare conceives the idea of tracking down the recipients.

(Which, as you probably know, is not encouraged and there are protocols in place to prevent unwanted contact.)

Told from the perspective of each of the four sisters at different times in their lives, I’ll Leave You with This explores multiple issues: childlessness and the pressures of IVF; bullying and its long-term effects including self-harm; the conflict between parenting and work; women held captive by the roles expected of them; the gulf between religious rhetoric and pastoral care; and the loss of parents as the glue that holds a family together.  Plus, there’s the problem of legacy pets.  Who is going to give Daniel’s dachshund a forever home? He’s been shunted around from one sister to another ever since Daniel died…

(Emma is appalled when Bridie turns up to offload him while she takes a holiday, and she learns how Bridie has treated him.

‘And honestly, Emma,’ she goes on, ‘I don’t think John Thomas would cope in a shelter.  He needs to be with me all the time.  Or Tom, or someone.  He’s like a bloody ghost. Every time I turn around he’s there.  Often I don’t even get to turn around — I trip over him, because he’s wrapped himself around my ankles.  So I tried shutting him in the laundry for a bit and then he chewed off all the skirting boards.’

‘You locked him up?’ Emma is horrified.

‘He’d had a walk, a long one, and his breakfast,’ Bridie replies defensively.  ‘I just wanted to get some stuff done without his eyes following me around like one of those portraits in a horror movie.  He’s so needy.’

Emma snorts.  Bridie doesn’t do needy.  Bridie can conjure an entire movie from a script and some actors, but she won’t take responsibility for a house plant.  She has staff for that. (p.147)

No, we are not meant to like Bridie.  Her treatment of this dog reminded me of how Jude the martyr, Jude the boss treated Finn, the old dog in Charlotte Wood’s The Weekend. (I had two lovable dachshunds as a child, (both of them imaginatively called Gretel), so I was always going to dislike any character who was mean to a dachsie!)

Anyway, the plot is a little choppy to start, but as each sister emerges as a distinct character, the narrative coheres.

The emotional terrain is complicated by doubts and insecurities. Clare is reeling from separation.  After years of failed IVF treatments for a baby that Clare craves and her partner Sophie doesn’t, Sophie is tired of their lives being ruled by the IVF regime.  When—in the same year that they had finally been able to marry—she leaves, Clare has to deal with multiple losses: the love of her life; the chance of having a child; and her home.  And she has no money because everything they had was spent on IVF.

The youngest, Emma, is physically small and lacking in confidence after years of bullying at school.  She has never had a relationship and even with a Christian version of Tinder, her devotion to God at the Crossfire church limits the pool of potential male partners.  She has abandoned her emerging career as a cellist because of a #MeToo incident with a visiting conductor, but her sisters have not even noticed. Allison is too busy with her career as a senior obstetrician and the demands of her twin boys (and feeling like a guilty failure at both); Bridie, the ‘bulldozer’ of the family, is too self-absorbed with her fading career as a film-maker.  This is not a close or supportive family and their only regular commitment to each other is to meet at a restaurant on the anniversary of Daniel’s death.  Also sharing this occasion is Joel, who was once Daniel’s partner but Daniel wasn’t interested in monogamy.  Joel is very nice, caring and thoughtful but he’s gay… not to mention still grieving for Daniel, so not available as a love interest.

So yes, this is all very messy, and there are a lot of ‘issues’ percolating through the novel, and the ending is just a little bit too tidy… yet it’s satisfying in a way because this family has had enough grief for an author to leave them stranded in misery.

Theresa Smith reviewed it too. 

Author: Kylie Ladd
Title: I’ll Leave You With This
Publisher: Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2022
Cover design: Christa Moffitt, Christabella Designs
ISBN 9780143778950, pbk., 336 pages
Source: Personal library, purchased from Ulysses Bookstore Hampton.


  1. For some reason I had this author mixed up with a different Kylie in my mind (who definitely would not be your cup of tea), so whilst I have looked at this book I didn’t really look at it if you know what I mean.

    There is a short story digital prequel to this story as well I believe.


    • Hi Marg, good to hear from you back from your travels!
      I did not know there was a prequel, I’m guessing it might be the brother’s back story?


      • We have been back for a while! About to go off on the next one shortly!


        • Where to this time?


          • South Island of New Zealand for a week!


            • Ah, that’s where Travellin’ Penguin is right now! You can have a preview of what you’ll see at her blog, she’s a stunning photographer. (


  2. It all sounds too issue-y for me. I’m, at this late stage in my life, finally beginning to understand what I want in a book – ordinary lives, well told. I consume escapist story books, crime mostly, and yes, SF but that’s just to fill in time (while the rest of you watch tv). In the books I really rate, the less that happens the better.


    • I hear you, Bill, but I suspect that these characters are really living quite ordinary lives. I think there would be many people who relate to these characters because they (like me) have real or vicarious experience of bullying or #MeToo, or the frantic desire for a baby, feeling orphaned by the death of parents etc etc. I have friends who’ve been down these paths and I even have the experience of legacy pets. (My first dachsie was a legacy pet.)
      So although there are a lot of issues requiring a deft authorial hand to bring them together, I think there is a place for this kind of fiction which sketches with empathy the kind of feelings people have about these things.


  3. Thanks for the link. Glad you didn’t mind it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a topic that I have always found fascinating. I think I would enjoy reading about this. I am assuming it is fictional?


    • When I went to the author talk, Kylie Ladd revealed that her own brother had died young and they’d donated his organs, but she didn’t say anything about how other family members behaved in the aftermath…

      Liked by 1 person

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