This is probably the heaviest novel I have read for a long time. It is a deep analysis into what the kidnap of a child does to every member of a family and when that child is found and home again. How nothing can be the same, how they struggle to cope with how to be normal, how to continue. There is no fast action, no end goal in sight for the family, because nothing can ever be the same again.
How does this change someone, change a family. What small intimacies between parents and children become uncertainties of acceptance and truth.
The brutal reality of how families fall apart in a sea of sudden uncertainty of parenthood. How each person deals with the trauma in their own way. How it impacts on their relationships both inside and outside of the family, and then again when Justin is home again after 5 years, how they have no idea how to begin again, and have to learn how to be a family all over again, but with the knowledge of what has happened to Justin.
I struggled reading this book because it is so heavy I could feel it dragging me down with it. However, that is the mark of how a good writer can make you feel a story and not just read it.
What makes it different?
It is written so beautifully and insightful. It is not a story of the kidnap and search, but of what how it impacts on personal lives day after day. When doors close it offers a reminder of how families live with the trauma of a missing child. After that child is brought home, this is an account of the trauma starting over again in a way that is heartbreaking. There is a tenderness that will touch every parent who reads it.
What did I like best?
I love the descriptions that convey the pain of coping in their world, which feels so real you are afraid it has to be true.
Eric, Justin’s father describes his pain:
“How often in the last four years had he almost knocked? [Justin’s bedroom door] Then, when his thoughts fitted themselves to reality, he felt cored out and drugged, groping awkwardly through his days as if he’d lost a limb in an accident, an arm or leg whose weight he still anticipated. He recognised its absence, and yet he could still feel the arteries as they dilated, the nerves as they burned."
Johnston describes how each member of the family cope in their own way beautifully, so that you have a real sense of how they move through their days in their own way. Laura throws herself into an anonymity of volunteering at a Dolphin research place, Griff his brother disappears into his own anonymity of being the brother left behind, and Eric his father has an affair. But each feels responsible for Justin’s disappearance.
What was not so good for me?
Because of the ‘heaviness’ of the writing, I almost lost the will to live and nearly gave up reading! It has a feeling of being one long pain driven account of despair when a child is kidnapped, which is most likely true, but to read it in a novel can be very depressing.
It is stunningly accurate in its emotional account of how a family falls apart coping when a child is kidnapped and found five years later. I had to keep reading to find what the conclusion was.
Many thanks to the publisher via NetGalley for a copy for my honest review