12 February 2016

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

Summary from Goodreads:
• Costa Book Award for First Novel finalist
• Dagger Award finalist

"Kate Hamer’s gripping debut novel immediately recalls the explosion of similarly titled books and movies, from Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels, to The Girl on the Train to Gone Girl … "—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Keeps the reader turning pages at a frantic clip... What’s most powerful here is not whodunnit, or even why, but how this mother and daughter bear their separation, and the stories they tell themselves to help endure it.” —Celeste Ng (Everything I Never Told You)

“Compulsively readable...Beautifully written and unpredictable, I had to stop myself racing to the end to find out what happened.” —Rosamund Lupton (Sister)

“Both gripping and sensitive — beautifully written, it is a compulsive, aching story full of loss and redemption.” —Lisa Ballantyne (The Guilty One)

"Hamer’s dark tale of the lost and found is nearly impossible to put down.” —Booklist

Newly single mom Beth has one constant, gnawing worry: that her dreamy eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, who has a tendency to wander off, will one day go missing. And then one day, it happens: On a Saturday morning thick with fog, Beth takes Carmel to a local outdoor festival, they get separated in the crowd, and Carmel is gone. Shattered, Beth sets herself on the grim and lonely mission to find her daughter, keeping on relentlessly even as the authorities tell her that Carmel may be gone for good. Carmel, meanwhile, is on a strange and harrowing journey of her own—to a totally unexpected place that requires her to live by her wits, while trying desperately to keep in her head, at all times, a vision of her mother…  Alternating between Beth’s story and Carmel’s, and written in gripping prose that won’t let go, The Girl in the Red Coat—like Emma Donoghue’s Room and M. L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans—is an utterly immersive story that’s impossible to put down . . . and impossible to forget.

I don't know if you'd call The Girl in the Red Coat a "literary" thriller.  It's not as "thriller-y" as the blurb makes it seem, so not a traditional thriller mystery.  However, this is an excellently plotted examination of a mother and daughter after the child is kidnapped. Each of them has to survive in less than ideal situations.  Beth has to work through loss and guilt; Carmel not only has to decide what to believe in her new reality but decide whether or not to take on a specific belief system since her kidnappers turn out to be religious fanatics (FYI: she is NOT molested, if that is a thing that you don't want in your fiction; I was a bit "eeeeeeeee do I need to read this with one eye open?" when I started).

If you're a little leery of child narrators - which are a tricky thing to pull off - I would suggest giving this one a try.  The narrative jumps back and forth between the mother and the child as the story moves forward in time.  The voices establish themselves quickly without Carmel sounding too old or too cloying.  Beth's sections are outstanding.  Hamer really nails down how a parent goes through an ordeal like this, how one keeps living and believing when everyone else starts giving up. Carmel's sections aren't strong narratively, which makes since she's a child, but are phenomenal in the atmosphere and imagery they contain. The "laying on of hands" sensation as narrated by a child was extremely interesting.

Dear FTC: I read a DRC of this book via Edelweiss.

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