I was sent this book by the wonderful Karen at Orenda Books because she thought I might like it. She wasn’t wrong.
A debut novel and inspired by her own experiences this book made me cry, and not many do that! I cried for the Mum, the Daughter, and the Dad. I cried for the sailors, and I cried because while it was not a happy ending in the true sense of the word there came an acceptance, a growing and an understanding of how fleeting life and chance can be. How we kick ourselves for not recognising things that become blindingly obvious, how we question ourselves as parents, how we don’t always ask the questions of the older generations that perhaps we should and how far on into our lives and their lives the experiences we have shape our character and our attitudes.
It begins with Natalie (the Mother) in the kitchen dealing with her nine year old daughter Rose. Rose loves her books and as the story unfolds all the signs and symptoms of what is to follow shout at you from the page if you know what they are. When Rose collapses the parent in you is right there with Natalie in her panic. Natalie doesn’t know. With her husband a serving soldier away on duty in Afghanistan she is on her own, or is she?
For days Natalie has been haunted by the smell of the sea, draughts in the house, and then the comforting stranger in the hospital who offers to blow out the candle which had been left burning.
And so begins a beautifully crafted story of persuading a child who doesn’t want to be diabetic and a parent who has to let go enough eventually to ask for help from neighbours, the battles with school, the trials of being a lone service parent who has to balance the need to tell with the need to keep the absent parent from worrying, and finding a way through it all by telling another story. One of endurance, survival.
This book is engrossing on so many levels. I recognise the newly diabetic child and the anxious parent from my time in Scouting, I recognise the fear from my time as a parent. I can imagine the sailors story from my history researches and my own knowledge (and fear) of the sea. The love of books and reading shared by mother and daughter is one I tried (and failed miserably) to pass on to my sons. Maybe if I had a book corner to snuggle into with fairylights I may have had more success. One to ponder when grandchildren come along perhaps.
As I said, this book made me cry. For the right reasons. A triumph of love and hope over adversity, of knowing that “ we don’t get less scared, we just find it easier to admit it when we have been as brave as we can.”
This was my book of the year in 2015. I don’t think I read one which evoked more of an emotional reaction while reading it.
Published July 15 2015