When you can’t get out, let kindness in.
In a non-descript building in a gentrifying corner of London, Penny is doing daily battle with her mind. She is convinced that the world beyond her door is too dangerous for her, though her heart knows it isn’t. Penny’s neighbour, Carla, an American expat and single mother of two teens, has lived in a coercive relationship for many years, too worn down by her controlling husband to escape her situation. Mable, Penny’s upstairs neighbour, an elderly Jamaican pensioner and devout Jehovah’s Witness, has sacrificed everything for her faith, including her relationship with her family. And Woman, the housekeeper and nanny on the second floor, has been trafficked. When she is not cleaning and cooking, she works in the laundrette the landlord owns on the ground floor, a hidden slave in full view of the public.
Through grocery deliveries, glimpses through windows, and overheard conversations in the stairwell, the women come to know each other. Their small acts of compassion help them each find a way to mend the broken paths in their lives.
Definition of sufferance capacity to endure pain, hardship, etc.; endurance. Archaic. suffering; misery.
Do you know what it is like to suffer? These women do. Penny due to an incident with her daughter which has led to mental anguish and agoraphobia, Carla who is being coerced, due to her illegal status, by the father of her children. Although he has a new family he just won’t let go. Woman has been trafficked and is being used as a modern day slave in full view of not only the residents but a local policeman. Then there is devout Jehovaha’s witness Mabel who knows and sees all but seems too busy spreading the word rather than practicing what she is preaching. But then she also knows what it means to suffer.
This is a very heavy book, it weighs on the soul as each character shares their torturous lives. Not all of them seem likeable at the start but once you come to understand them you long to show them an escape route. This story exposes the weakness in our society, the turning of a blind eye to the vulnerable.
The lethargy of PC Grant all too familiar in an overworked and underfunded police force.
Does this sound too much? Imagine living it! But then there is that little ray of hope. It could take the form of a raisin found on the floor from spilt muesli or from watching your child play at the park opposite when you cannot leave your flat.
That is what this book is ultimately about, hope. When most would give up these women keep going when all the odds of survival are stacked against them. Opening your eyes to what is going on around you and those small acts of kindness that can mean the whole world to someone whose world has become very small.
About the author
I’m a New Yorker, but I’ve lived in London my British husband and our two sons for almost fourteen years. I’m a dual qualified US lawyer and UK solicitor and I practiced immigration law in the UK before I started writing fiction. My parents and grandparents were Ukrainian immigrants to the US and their history and struggles had a great impact on my life, so I’m always interested in stories about migration, otherness, and what it means to be on the outside of a place looking in. I’ve felt that a lot of times in my life and it’s a human experience I like to explore through writing.
In both Little Prisons and When I Ran Away I write about motherhood, migration, loneliness, and the strength of female friendships. I also explore mental health through my characters.
I hope you enjoy reading my books or listening to them on Audible. You can find me on Instagram @ilona.bannister and on Twitter @ilonabannister. You can read my articles and interviews at ilonabannister.com.
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