Can there be a murkier quagmire of opinions currently on the boil than this one, ready and waiting to trap the unwary?
Gobbets of hot air exploding all around, everyone taking sides and me in imminent danger of slipping into this morass right up to my neck and then being pelted with slimy dead fish from all sides?
Common sense tells me I really should just leave this one well alone and let all those people who know about these things slug it out over The Lost Child by Julie Myerson (and just look what the initials of that title say...tlc) but since when has a bit of a slap round the chops with a dead cod stopped me?
Plus on this very day twenty-six years ago, at 8.59am precisely, I too became the mother of a son as the Kayaker paddled into our world (thankfully minus his kayak at that stage) and perhaps a fleeting thought may have crossed my mind, along the lines of what sort of a hand had we been dealt here and just how might we play this one.
Julie Myerson may well have thought likewise and if she had any doubts that this whole motherhood thing might be the toughest assignment yet then she can be left in no uncertainty now.
Forget the gentle card-playing analogy, let's head for the hills because Family Myerson haven't just found themselves between a rock and hard place. Their plight is not in the least unusual because like countless others this family have been tethered to a precarious cliff-face in the teeth of a howling blizzard whilst teenage Son of Myerson strikes out single pitch across the ice field on a rope of his own choosing as teenage sons can be wont to do.
In this day and age it strikes me this is often the only way they can find to go out and become men because they aren't sent out to hunt for the dinner any more (unless they live here that is) .
The pain, the grief and the loss emanate from the depths of Julie Myerson's soul as she recounts her side of this tragic story that I hope she'd rather she hadn't had to write.
I'm trying to be even-handed here because if I learnt one lesson very early on in my lifetime of working with families and listening to other people's narratives it is that people's life stories are multi-faceted, so whilst offering empathy and congruence to what I was hearing I always had to inwardly acknowledge what may have been happening to the others involved.
Though The Lost Child only offers Julie and Jonathan's version of events, Son of Myerson does have a public voice and he is now using it to full (and lucrative) effect and I doubt the Myerson's would expect it to be any other way. He has benefited from what sounds like a warm, loving, caring family home, many would say a privileged one that more than met his needs, one that like most has had its share of up and downs. He's had a good education, he is confident, articulate and intelligent and will doubtless have been raised in an atmosphere where there was food and money on the table, debate was considered healthy and his opinions were listened to. He is far more fortunate than many and with that foundation he has a bright future if he survives his journey through the drug use that he doesn't view as a problem.
So attempting an unbiased reading of this book I readily sensed the boy's (Julie calls him her boy throughout, this feels highly significant) pain, chaos, turmoil and confusion as the drug use apparently escalates in direct proportion to the dwindling school attendance, the fading certainty of A*grades, deteriorating behaviour, an alleged assault on his mother that leaves Julie in A&E nursing a perforated eardrum, a casual girlfriend's pregnancy and rapidly arranged abortion and eventually a life of sofa-surfing after the family finally change the locks on the doors.
That I felt his pain must be to his mother's credit in the writing of this book, but as the mother of sons it was inevitable that I would feel Julie Myerson's pain too.
Whilst researching the nineteenth-century lives of the Yelloly family for her next book, Julie Myerson realised that it was all inseperable from the twenty-first century events being played out in her own home.
If the nineteenth century family was fractured and decimated by disease and early death then Julie Myerson offers a tragic comparison of what is more likely to destroy the family of today, delineating the vortex into which her family descends as Son of Myerson wreaks the kind of drug-induced havoc for which they were not prepared because it only happened to other people.
The ways for a nest to empty have become many and varied down the centuries, but if there is a danger in writing a script for your own childrens' lives during their childhood (and which parent doesn't) it is to forget that in the twenty-first century at some stage the children may take that script into their own hands and rewrite it for themselves, and that might be excruciatingly tough to sit back and watch. The rewrite leaving in its wake that yawning chasm of unmet expectations which for Julie Myerson has translated into a profound sense of grief and loss and every emotion therin. Shock, denial, anger, guilt, bargaining, depression are all played out in a book that I felt Julie Myerson had no choice but to write if she wanted to reach some degree of acceptance and continue being a writer.
There is much cynicism around about motive (is this really a book warning about the effects of skunk cannabis?) and chatter about exploitation (Julie Myerson has written about her children in various guises for many years) but I was left wondering whether Julie Myerson fundamentally needed people to know this truth about her life and her family before she could honestly move forward and write again, will this book prove to be one of those cathartic writing moments for her to gather her resources and carry on?
There is of course a possibility that the book will be read for the Son of Myerson bits alone whilst the Yelloly family story is glossed over and ignored and this would be a pity because, though I didn't feel the Yelloly thread as it stands would have sustained a book in its own right, it is through exploring and drawing close to the grief of that family's tragically consumptive past that Julie Myerson seems able to explore her own past and present as the story unfolds, and it is all beautifully written.
Perhaps I'm reading too much into it but I sensed that as Julie discovered Mrs Yelloly's thanks to God in her handwritten pocket almanac for 1850 this became her genuine and fervent wish for her own family too, and there are many more moments like this when the past somehow informs the present,
'raising my beloved child up from her most dangerous illness and blessing us with means to give her sea air. Oh bring me safely through my anxieties and bless all my dear children.'
Or crouched on the floor of the Church finally discovering and reading the Yelloly family memorial after such a painstaking search, Julie could just as easily be speaking to her son as to the elusive Mary Yelloly,
'Right now, crouching here on this floor on a hot, light summer's day, I'm the closest I'll ever be to what is left of you.'
Perhaps Son of Myerson was right about one thing, when he read and by all accounts approved publication of the manuscript and the inclusion of his poems in the book (though now retracting on the grounds that he was seventeen, confused and didn't really know what he was agreeing to)
'To be absolutely honest he says carefully, I wasn't all that interested in the stuff about the Mary Yelloly person...
I'm not saying it's bad, necessarily. But maybe you have to be pushing fifty and female.'
Past fifty in my case and yes, the 'Yelloly stuff' worked fine here, but The Lost Child is going to run and run before it's given up its head of steam and half of me didn't want to add to that and now I have, drat.
This the book that was due for publication in May but, thanks to an interview with Son of Myerson in the national press, Bloomsbury took the decision to bring forward the publication date and take full advantage of the free publicity.
There have been brickbats flying left, right, north and south, with claims and counter-claims, revelatory press interviews, accusations and disapprobation aimed at the Myersons for even considering the publication of such a personal book detailing their son's drug use, allegations of hysteria and insanity directed at his mother by her son and worse.
I'm not even going there and I'm very grateful to have been able to read this book before I then read some of the back story because frankly the public fall-out saddens my heart. The publicity machine giving false voice to a tragedy that might now be better played out behind closed doors with attempts at damage-limiting mediation and a public silence, because though not all families are salvageable from wreckage like this they remain a precious resource to be nurtured and cherished and not solely rich seams to be mined for book material.
This book needs no more help from Family Myerson to sell.
I feel sorrow and sadness in equal measure for everything Family Myerson have endured and for the agonisingly hurtful place they all now find themselves, and lest we forget, younger siblings who have witnessed all this and needed safeguarding too.
Everyone will reach their own conclusions about The Lost Child but I do applaud Julie Myerson's courage in the writing of it and likewise who can fault Jonathan Myerson's unqualified support for his partner, relationships fall on their swords over far less. Son of Myerson could easily have brought his entire family crashing down with him.
Others will doubtless disagree but I was cut to the core by a mother's helpless and frequently unrequited expressions of love for her son and in turn her son's often paralysed and distant emotional response and the huge and ever-widening chasm that grew between them. I've made little mention of Jonathan Myerson's moments of weeping despair and deep sense of failure as a father but it's laid bare in this book for all to see.
Ultimately for all the seeming hopelessness of the current situation I'm rooting for good outcomes for Family Myerson in my writing of the next chapter for them, that all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well for Julie, Jonathan and their son and I just hope they take good counsel in the coming months when the LitFest circuit beckons. The potential for those wounds to be picked over and reopened time and again in the interests of book sales and feeding an insatiable public requires careful balancing with a focus on laying some healing foundations for the future, because a family apparently built on this much love is precious and not to be trifled with. Pull it up by the roots and examine it too frequently and it will be irretrievably damaged.
So have I been privy to family exploitation?
Have I been told it like it was ?
Who can tell, only Family Myerson know their versions of the truth but of one thing I feel certain; whilst what was lost was undoubtedly the boy, I feel sure what will be found eventually is the man, and actually isn't that what's supposed to happen?