John Cleese and Robyn Skynner wrote a 1980s book called 'Families and How to Survive Them', and it's true that family life can be no joke. What I liked about Moira Forsyth's novel TELL ME WHERE YOU ARE is the authentic sense she conveys of modern families, moving together and apart, with the different generations interwoven still within each others' daily lives even although decisions and accidents from the past have brought various kinds of separation.
She is good at observing their ways of self-preservation, and particularly good on the effect of living with teenagers. The two sons of Frances, the main character, being brought up by her as a separated working parent in a Highland town, are authentic in all respects, combining self-centeredness, sibling rivalry and loyalty. Their feckless father comes too late on the scene to make any real impact on the lives they have already begun to lead, and the characters she has helped them to develop.
Frances is a well-drawn character. I kept feeling I ought to like her less than I actually did, with her slightly judgmental and determined Northern manner, drawn to men who are weak in ways she is not blind to. But her sensitivity to the world around her and the clear-sighted commitment she shows not only to her sons but to the pregnant daughter of her sister, who betrayed her many years before, balance the survival toughness she has had to develop.
That sister has disappeared, and the tension of not quite knowing when or whether she will ever return carries the plot forward with a mysterious momentum. The final birth scene also blends realism and wonder in an authentic way -- another mystery.