Will and Ella
by S.D. Robertson
The two central characters in Time to Say Goodbye, Will and Ella, are father and daughter. The relationship between them is the lifeblood of the book. You could even call the novel a platonic love story.
They are incredibly close: more so than the average father and daughter, because it’s just the two of them. Alice – Will’s wife and Ella’s mother – died during childbirth. So Will is the only parent his six-year-old daughter has ever known. Equally, she is his only child and the sole living reminder he has of his wife. They mean everything to each other.
In light of Alice’s death, Will has even promised Ella countless times that he will never leave her; that he will always be there for her. But as it states on the cover of the book: ‘The future is full of unexpected surprises.’
I’m not spoiling much by telling you that Will is killed in a road accident at the start of the novel. It happens in the first paragraph. Then he finds himself as a spirit, looking on as paramedics fail to revive his battered, bloody body. His first thought is for Ella. How will she manage without him? How will she ever understand him breaking his pledge: abandoning her without saying goodbye?
This unwillingness to leave Ella is central to the plot and leads to some major dilemmas for Will. The iron bond between him and his daughter makes his quandary all the more heart-rending.
Luckily, Ella has other family to look after her: her grandparents and her aunt and uncle. But she’s still an orphan and no one will ever be able to replace her dad.
There’s a scene in the first chapter where Ella is waiting alone in the schoolyard for her father to pick her up. He’s actually there in spirit form, having run to her side following the accident that killed him, but she’s oblivious to his presence. It was this image that first formed itself in my mind when I was searching my imagination for a story. Everything else followed on from that.
Having spent time as a stay-at-home dad with my daughter, I knew I wanted to use the experience in my writing. But it wasn’t until this image, which felt so moving and powerful to me, that I knew where to take it. As a parent, you want to protect your child above all else. To have that power torn away, leaving you a helpless onlooker, is the stuff of nightmares.
Anyway, I hope readers can empathise with these two central characters and the power of their love for each other. Their journey is an emotional one. Ultimately, though, I think it’s uplifting, celebrating a wonderful relationship capable of surviving the worst that life – and death – can throw at it.