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Jacket Notes: Sara-Jayne King talks about the difficulty of writing her book Killing Karoline

Published in the Sunday Times

Killing KarolineKilling Karoline
Sara-Jayne King, MFBooks/Joburg

I was about three-quarters of the way through writing Killing Karoline when the message arrived on Facebook. “Are you trying to destroy us?” That was all it said. It was from my biological mother’s sister. A woman I had never met, and never wanted to; one of “them”. That’s often what adoption does. It turns family into complete strangers. “Them” is my biological family – a team of which I am not a member, on whose side I will never be. “Them” is the woman – who, after having delivered me, her hybrid progeny, in Sandton in 1980 – sequestered me away to England to be adopted. She returned to South Africa, and told people I had died. That awful lie formed the final part of her plan to keep secret her forbidden relationship with my biological father.

While it had always been my intention to write down my story, for many years I was crippled by a fear that to allow myself a voice, to speak my truth and reveal myself as the dreadful secret would be to hammer the final nail in my own coffin.

So the page remained blank and I pretended I did not need to write. I convinced myself that I should not write. It was not so much writer’s block as adoptee’s misplaced guilt. Many of us suffer from it.

When the time did eventually come and the book began demanding more fervently to be born, the idea that I owed these strangers – “them” – my silence, became all the more nonsensical. I refused to tell the story in a way that protected them from their own shame. That did not mean I did not think about them, it just meant I refused to write with them in mind.

“Write as if they are dead,” my publisher told me, and I did.

My maternal aunt’s message was, oddly, both predictable and surprising. Somewhere along the grapevine had obviously come word that the book was on its way. Something that would expose the lie and the liars. But unlike the baby that had arrived some 37 years before, this was not something that would be kept secret. I knew the book would be the voice of my most authentic self, because at the end of it all, no one can tell our stories better than we can ourselves…

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