Charity Norman In the quiet of a New Zealand winter’s night, a rescue helicopter is sent to airlift a five-year-old boy with severe internal injuries. He’s fallen from the upstairs veranda of an isolated farmhouse, and his condition is critical. At first, Finn’s fall looks like a horrible accident; after all, he’s prone to sleepwalking. Only his frantic mother, Martha McNamara, knows how it happened. And she isn’t telling. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
Tragedy isn’t what the McNamara family expected when they moved to New Zealand. For Martha, it was an escape. For her artist husband Kit, it was a dream. For their small twin boys, it was an adventure. For sixteen-year-old Sacha, it was the start of a nightmare.
They end up on the isolated east coast of the North Island, seemingly in the middle of a New Zealand tourism campaign. But their peaceful idyll is soon shattered as the choices Sacha makes lead the family down a path which threatens to destroy them all.
Martha finds herself facing a series of impossible decisions, each with devastating consequences for her family.
This was one of the most gripping stories I have read in a while and I dived into it at any available opportunity. Having bought the book quite a while before I read it, I had completely forgotten what the blurb had to say and for me this made it an even more exciting read as I was torn between the characters and as situations unfolded themselves without expectations about what was going to happen. Now I feel that I can’t talk too much about the plot because my experience of reading it with no fore knowledge is what I would recommend to everyone!
So what I will say is that I really liked Martha. She was a complex character facing increasingly difficult choices in her family life. Having a blended family she struggles between her loyalty to her older daughter and her new husband and twin boys. There are demons hiding in the closet too and as the plot twists and turns Martha struggles to make sense of what is happening to her family and what she can do about it to make things better. She so wants to make everything alright and it is easy to identify with her dilemmas.
I also enjoyed the realism in the story, cutting between the present where Martha is sitting beside a comatose Finn in his hospital bed and the story of how they came to be there, beginning with their move from England. They all seem like a normal family, ok, with a few issues, but really, what family doesn’t have any of those! The task of moving to another country, the other side of the world are covered briefly and the family settle into what seems to be an idyllic new life in New Zealand. The cracks appear slowly, and it takes a while for Martha to realise, and then come to terms with what is really going on. That desire to not want to face reality, to protect others and to believe that the worst is over are all things any parent can identify with.
The descriptions of New Zealand were beautiful and appreciated the way that Charity also wove in characters from a Maori background and used their legends in her story telling. Verdict: This is a riveting family drama and it left me thinking about it for a long time afterwards. Reviewed by Helen
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Publication Date: November 2012
Genre: contemporary, suspense, family
Source: Own copy