What’s it all about?:
When Geniver Loxley lost her daughter at birth eight years ago, her world stopped… and never fully started again. Mothers with strollers still make her flinch; her love of writing has turned into a half-hearted teaching career; and she and her husband, Art, have slipped into the kind of rut that seems inescapable. For Art, the solution is simple: Have another child to replace Beth. For Gen, the thought of replacing her first child feels cruel, nearly unbearable. A part of her will never let go of Beth, no matter how much she needs to move on.
But then a stranger shows up on their doorstep, telling Gen the very thing she’s always desperately longed to hear: that her daughter was not stillborn, but was taken away as a healthy infant. That Beth is still out there, somewhere, waiting to be found. A fissure suddenly opens up in Gen’s carefully reconstructed life, letting in a flood of unanswerable questions. How could this possibly be true? Where is Beth? And why is Art so reluctant to get involved?
As Gen delves into the darkest parts of her past, she starts to realize that finding the answers might open the door to something even worse, a truth that could steal everything she holds close. Even her own life.
What did WE think?:
CHRISSI: As Geniver is a first-person narrator, we experience everything from her perspective. How does this bias your perception of people and situations from the beginning? Does it ever make you doubt her decisions?
BETH: Obviously with Geniver being the narrator, we see all situations from her point of view. The reader sympathises with her over her agonising struggles when losing the baby, then we see her confusion and paranoia when it turns out that her baby may still be alive. We see other characters like her husband Art and her friend Hen through her eyes, so we are never really very sure how the other character is feeling, what they are thinking etc. Being the narrator, you do “root for her,” so as to speak, but at points I did feel like the story would be more effective as a dual (or more!) narrative to get the whole picture. However, I believe we were meant to be as much in the dark as Geniver was, so the mystery could unravel more slowly.
BETH : When we first meet Lorcan he comes across as charming but untrustworthy. By the end of the novel his true character is revealed. Discuss his role in the novel.
CHRISSI: I honestly thought that Lorcan was going to be a dodgy character. When he started to help Geniver I began to think that perhaps he had something to do with the baby and was leading her onto a path of destruction. I think his role in the novel, for me, was to give a level of uncertainty about his interest in Geniver.
CHRISSI: A well-respected businessman who clearly adores his wife, how does your opinion of Art change during the course of the novel? How does the author achieve this?
BETH : I think my opinion pretty much stayed the same for Art. We know that he is a high flying sort with a keen nose for business, and is somewhat of a rising star when we see his excitement over meetings with the Prime Minister. We also find out that he has a few skeletons in his closet, and many secrets to be unearthed. He clearly loves his wife, that much is obvious, but can we trust him?
BETH : The child’s narrative that intersperses the story is a mystery until the very end. Who did you think it was? Discuss how the reveal of the child’s identity and his specific loyalties change the way you think about the novel.
CHRISSI: I didn’t really guess who the child narrative was until it was revealed. I think I probably would’ve if I was more focused on it, but it didn’t exactly grab me. That was until the very end. I think the reveal of the child’s identity gave the novel a really creepy feel. I think it also sets itself up for a sequel.
CHRISSI: Throughout the novel there is an underlying tension and sense of paranoia. How does the author create this?
BETH : The paranoia is this novel is there right from the beginning. We meet Gen and Art at an IVF appointment very early on in the book, as they have been trying for another child for a long time. Even at this early a stage, the reader gets a sense of how fragile and vulnerable Gen is as she does not seem able to communicate her feelings about IVF to her husband which leaves the door wide open for mis-trust and paranoia. I didn’t really feel the tension mounting until about halfway through, which was for me when things really kicked off, doubts set in, and the story became unputdownable.
BETH: Both Morgan and Art are severely affected by their childhood relationships with their father. How much does this early trauma contribute to their life decisions and personalities? Does the knowledge of their difficult childhoods make you more understanding of their adult actions?
CHRISSI: I think their trauma with their father really did contribute to their decisions. They are both quite messed up characters. Knowing what happened to them does make you understand their adult actions but not excuse it!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH’s Star Rating (out of 5):
CHRISSI’s Star Rating (out of 5):