Carey is keeping a terrible secret. If she tells, it could destroy her future. If she doesn't, will she ever be free?
For almost as long as she can remember, Carey has lived in the heart of the woods with her drug-addicted mother and six-year-old sister, Jenessa.
Their mother routinely disappears for weeks at a time, leaving the girls to cope alone. Survival is Carey's only priority - until strangers arrive and everything changes...
A word I never expected to use in reference to this book is beautiful, but that's exactly what it was. It is stunning and haunting and just beautiful.
It's a simple story, really. Two girls are left to fend for themselves in the forest when their mother disappears, often for weeks at a time. Carey, the older girl, looks after her little sister and struggles to escape the bleakness of their lives by getting lost in the few books they have, until their father turns up to take them home. There isn't much of a plot to get tangled up in, but I actually appreciated that here. It gives you space to focus on the characters and the difficult relationships that exist between them. It gives you space to really appreciate the beauty of Emily Murdoch's writing.
As much as I enjoyed this book, and I really did, I had a couple of concerns about it as well. I read the version pictured above - published this year by Indigo - and there were several moments while reading when I wondered if it had been edited for a UK audience. I don't have my copy to hand to quote page numbers because I'm already lending it out to people, but the words crisps and trainers were both used. I found this jarring, because it's set in Tennessee. Now, maybe people in Tennessee use crisps and trainers, but I think it's a lot more likely they use chips and sneakers (or tennis shoes, more likely. Hey, if you're interested in words you should check out these dialect maps, I found them genuinely very interesting) My point is, I found these words incredibly jarring. I don't know if they were in the original edition of the book (or any US version, if you happen to have a copy and could let me know in the comments that would be great. Crisps is used in the car when Mrs Haskell gives a packet to Carey, who says that sour cream and onion are her favourite flavour). I don't like the idea of published texts being edited at all, but especially in cases such as these when the changes are tiny but very distracting. I mean, is there anyone in the UK who really would have read this book and been confused about what Carey was eating/wearing in these scenes?
My other issue with the book was the revelation at the end about the white-star night. Now, I'm not going to spoil it for anyone, because that's just mean, but I have something I'd like to say about it. The revelation was really built up, I thought. We all knew that something terrible had happened and I dreaded finding out what it was. Unfortunately, my brain started whirring away, coming up with ideas about what could have happened, and several of them were quite a lot worse - in my opinion - than what actually happened. This left me feeling a little disappointed by the ending, feeling a little that's it? but other than that, I thought this book was truly excellent. It really was. I highly recommend it and I look forward to seeing what Murdoch comes out with next.