Reviewed by Danielle Pullen
You were loved and lost - then you came back . . .
Five years ago, three-year-old Dillon disappeared. For his father Harry - who left him alone for ten crucial minutes - it was an unforgivable lapse. Yet Dillon's mother Robyn has never blamed her husband: her own secret guilt is burden enough.
Now they're trying to move on, returning home to Dublin to make a fresh start.
But their lives are turned upside down the day Harry sees an eight-year-old boy in the crowd. A boy Harry is convinced is Dillon. But the boy vanishes before he can do anything about it.
What Harry thought he saw quickly plunges their marriage into a spiral of crazed obsession and broken trust, uncovering deceits and shameful secrets. Everything Robyn and Harry ever believed in one another is cast into doubt.
And at the centre of it all is the boy that never was...
If you had to list the most devastating events that could occur, losing a child has to be at the top of your list. Now imagine that one of the parents is culpable. That’s where we begin the story of The Boy That Never Was.
Harry and Robin live a comfortable life in Tangier with their son Dillon until the seminal day when disaster strikes and Dillon is lost. After mixing some sleeping pills with Dillon’s milk to help him sleep peacefully, Harry leaves the house for only a few minutes. Who was to know that an earthquake would leave the family’s home as a pile of rubble, with Dillon still sleeping inside?
The couple struggle to come to terms with their loss and, looking for a fresh start, leave Morocco and their groups of friends for a new life in Ireland. Despite the difficulties, the couple find some stability but this is short-lived when Harry finds himself caught up in a protest march and glimpses a small child who he believes to be Dillon.
The two protagonists, Harry and Robin, take turns to weave the plot with each adding more and more detail as the novel progresses. We learn more about each of them, their past and their motivations and realise that nothing is as simple as it first seems. Does Robin truly forgive Harry for drugging and leaving their son? Is Harry a reliable narrator or is he in the midst of a breakdown?
Karen Perry is the pseudonym of a male and female writing team. Initially this worried me as I
wondered whether the writing process could be truly successful with this set-up. How would the thought process meld? Would the characterisation, in particular, feel disjointed? I need not have worried. The Boy That Never Was is a clever mix of a plot-driven contemporary novel with a real sense of time and place. The sections of the text detailing the family’s time in Tangier is rich and evocative, with the setting and characters adding to the mysterious atmosphere. Similarly, for a novel that is focussed on events, the characters are extraordinarily well-drawn with the reader feeling immersed and understanding the motivations of both of Dillon’s parents.
An excellent first novel from this writing duo. Can’t wait for the next one!
I'd like to thank Danielle for reviewing this eBook for me which we received from the publisher via NetGalley.