Full disclosure, Sam sent me a free copy of this book, at this point I should say in return for a fair and honest review, but she didn’t actually ask for a review ha! I couldn’t resist writing about Call Billy….you’ll soon see why! As always, there are no spoilers here so read away!
Oooooh, this was a dark read.
A dysfunctional family that are falling apart, characters that are questionable, people who make bad decisions, it’s gritty, realistic; I loved Call Billy.
The Gillespie family have recently moved to Edinburgh from Oban, this is meant to be a fresh start for them.
Rachel has gone to university as a mature student, Andrew is getting to spend more time with his two children – teenage Abi and Callum who’s 6. The new start the Gillespie’s had been hoping for turns to dust when Rachel begins an affair with Ryan, a fellow student.
I guess Rachel, did get a new start, safe to say that this wasn’t what Andrew had in mind.
Unfortunately for Rachel, there’s more to Ryan than she anticipated and she’s about to learn that that isn’t a good thing.
Ryan’s also known as Stevie. Ryan’s running from his past, a past that’s about to catch up with him in the guise of a name and number Rachel’s library card. It’s a name and number that causes him to lash out violently and everyone in the orbit of these two will be affected in some way.
Told from the perspective of different characters – Rachel, Andrew, Abi and Ryan – Call Billy moves quickly but at no point feels rushed. Each chapter adds more depth to the characters, the majority of whom are incredibly flawed and, at times, not likeable but as a reader I felt like I knew them, properly, I understood their motivations and why they acted in certain ways.
Sam McColl explores several issues through Call Billy; Rachel was abused as a child, it’s led her to addiction, a violent relationship, problems with trust and toxic relationships with those around her. Rachel’s only ever dealt with what happened to her with alcohol and now she’s at breaking point.
Sadly, it’s Rachel’s daughter Abi who bears the brunt of her problems. She’s a lost, mixed-up kid trying to parent her mother, she takes all responsibility for her mum and is often put in the middle of the battles between Rachel and Andrew as their marriage falls apart. There were times my heart broke for Abi who just wanted her mum to look after her, to care about her, remember her existence and act like a mum.
The while Gillespie family are in free fall. Andrew and Rachel are fixated on their problems, they are at times selfish, self-centred and useless as parents, yet I was invested in them and cared about them. I may have wanted to chuck a bucket of freezing water over them as a reminder to get their shit together, but their flaws made them relatable. They acted how normal, messy, complicated humans act and that’s what I loved about this book.
It felt as though I was reading about a real family in a mess. Each character stumbles into a crisis through seemingly small, inconsequential actions. The decisions they make have huge consequences for them all; consequences that they couldn’t foresee happening.
While it’d be easy to judge the actions of these characters – and at times I did judge them – McColl writes with empathy and compassion which acted as a reminder to me that nothing is black and white; Rachel, Andrew and Ryan all needed a little understanding, even when they were acting like morons.
What you’ll get from this book is a huge dose of social realism, you may recognise the characters, you might not always like them, but you will feel for them, you’ll get to know the Gillespie’s and their friends, you may despair at them, you won’t be able to stop reading about them.
Give Call Billy a read.
Give Billy a call yourself, he answers……07899232007
Find out more about Sam here
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm