Reviewed by Elizabeth Bennett
One family, one town, devastated by one tragic event.
Can you ever know what those closest to you are really capable of?
When Stephen gets a phone call to say his mother isn't well, he knows he must go to her straight away. But he dreads going back there. He has never been able to understand why his mother chose to stay in the town he grew up in, after everything that happened. One day's tragic events years before had left no one living there untouched.
Stephen's own dark memories are still poisoning his life, as well as his marriage. Perhaps now is the time to go back and confront the place and the people of his shattered childhood. But will he ever be able to understand the crime that punctured their lives so brutally? How can a community move on from such a terrible legacy?
Stephen – Tormented by his past
Mother - Her dreams destroyed
Father - Damaged by war
Stephen – the main character – receives a call from a friend of his mother; she needs his help. Having made a conscious decision to leave behind his childhood home as soon as he could, he is reluctant to return.
He has spent many years trying to escape his childhood. He is now married with a family of his own. He cannot deny however, what happened in his early life is affecting him in the present. He wants to forget what happened all that time ago. Knowing he would rather stay away but at the same time he wants to help his mother, he knows he must go back. Once there, he finds himself thrown into turmoil; coming face to face with his demons, meeting former classmates and acquaintances, he is forced to re-examine the past.
The book is written in such a way the reader is transported forwards and backwards through time – adding a build-up in tension until we reach the final chapter of our journey through Stephen’s eyes.
This story illustrates how early relationships and experiences shape you. We fully understand only when we become adults with lives of our own. By revisiting events the main character, Stephen, is able to see things clearer. He becomes able to answer questions both about himself and others. Seeing the fuller picture for the first time from others’ point of view helps him understand a little more about the effects of what happened to his family and friends. He realises he is not the only person suffering. He is now able to re-examine his own relationship – or lack of – with his own father and compare this to his own fatherhood.
The introduction to the characters in the book is a gradual process. The way Vorster uses
description is extremely clever, giving the reader a vivid picture of the story he is trying to portray. He has a real grasp of how to conjure up people, places and events lucidly. There is the constant sense of something awful which has taken place, to whom and its effect without actually telling the reader until the conclusion. The images are thought provoking and certainly stimulate the reader into considering issues possibly not previously considered.
I found this book spellbinding, totally engaging and I was eager to discover what exactly what had happened to cause such mayhem. The story will stay with the reader for some time after closing the book for the final time, stimulating questions and ideas about life experiences which may have been heard about but not fully understood.
I'd like to thank Caitlin at Headline for sending me a copy of this book and Elizabeth for reviewing it for me.