Publisher: Faber & Faber (24th December 2015)
Print Length: 384 pages
This novel tells of a child abduction and chapters alternate between the mother's angst and the child's story. Carmel being the child, and Beth is her mother. I liked the story structure. The plot unfolded bit by bit. I always expected to uncover something interesting in the next chapter. For example, the fact that Carmel, the little girl at the center of the story, was gifted in an unusual way was only revealed gradually. For me, this was much more effective than giving the information up front and in full, and this storyline construction kept me eager to read on..
The author uses some clever techniques. When a little girl is abducted by an elderly man, you inevitably think sexual abuse is high up on the list of possible reasons. Kate Hamer dismissed this possibility very quickly, not by telling the reader the actual reason for the kidnapping, but by showing the abductor respecting Carmel's privacy, allowing her to change her clothes in private. Thus, the reader's preconceptions are challenged, and they're left wondering exactly why has this little girl been kidnapped then?
For a while, I wasn't sure if the abductor was Carmel's grandfather or not. This uncertainty has the plot pivoting on the fulcrum of a single person, the alternatives pointing to very different scenarios - a very neat plot device.
The author casually introduces snippet of mystery into the mix. The small "hiding rooms", all lined up along a wall and each having a door with a tiny peep hole, were a case in point. The purpose of these rooms left me mystified - until their existence was explained in a seemingly throw away comment later on in the book, giving a satisfying ah-ha moment. I found these little snippets really added to the atmospherics of the plot.
There were a couple of plot threads that left me somewhat disappointed. For example, Beth's love interest, Craig, dangled on the periphery of the storyline. His introduction to the plot never delivered on the promise it brought. And the Silver and Melody characters that, for a time, play a central role in Carmel's life. They are casually cast aside by the author and you are left thinking why were they included in the first place? Even Melody's subsequent letter to Carmel appears to serve little purpose in the grand scheme of the plot. However, these disappointments didn't significantly detract from the overall story.
I enjoyed the read and would definitely recommend it. I suspect that, should I re-read it, I'll uncover additional plot nuances and some of those annoying loose ends may be tidied up.