Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Abducted from a festival near her home in Norfolk, England, eight-year-old Carmel Wakeford is forced to embark on a journey that will take her to the United States and an unimaginable new life. The story unfolds in chapters that alternate between Carmel and her divorced young mother, Beth, with whom readers instantly sympathize. Clad in a red coat, Carmel has disappeared in a fog. Yet Beth never doubts that Carmel is alive, remaining hopeful even as she undergoes big changes in her own life while learning to cope with her tragic situation. VERDICT Reading this novel is a test of how fast you can turn pages. Hamer, a Rhys Davies Short Story Prize winner, is a natural storyteller who writes with such a sense of drama, compulsion, and sympathy that most readers will devour this work in one or two sittings. A finalist for both the Dagger Award and the Costa Book Award for First Novel, this debut is ideal for book clubs and has best seller potential. [LibraryReads February Pick.]-Lisa Rohrbaugh, Leetonia Community P.L., OH © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
British single mother Beth knows her eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, has a tendency to wander-at a local corn maze, on school trips-but one foggy day, the girl vanishes at a local festival and cannot be found. A man who claims to be Carmel's grandfather convinces her that Beth has been in a terrible accident, so Carmel leaves the fairgrounds with him and winds up at a secluded home with the man and his female companion, Dorothy. As Beth frantically searches and slowly isolates herself from the outside world, Carmel is told after careful manipulation that her mother has died, and soon finds herself in America with her new "grandparents," who work as spiritualist healers. Carmel fights to remember her past, but as time passes and she crisscrosses the country, her old life begins to fade. It takes everything in her to remember her name, her address, and her parents. Hamer's spectacular debut skillfully chronicles the nightmare of child abduction. Telling the story in two remarkable voices, with Beth's chapters unfurling in past tense and Carmel's in present tense, the author weaves a page-turning narrative. The trajectories of the novel's two leads-through despair, hope, and redemption-are believable and nuanced, resulting in a morally complex, haunting read. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Hamer's elegantly written first novel begins on a fog-shrouded day in the English countryside as Beth and her eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, attend a festival. In the midst of the crowd, they are separated, and Carmel indulges in a private child's game of hiding before realizing she is hopelessly lost. When a man tells her that he is her estranged grandfather, she takes his hand in relief and disappears. Her parents and the police follow every lead for years, while Carmel finds herself held captive by a ragtag bunch of self-described miracle workers directed by her grandfather, who is convinced that she possesses a power that will bring him wealth and salvation. With chapters split between mother and daughter, readers are drawn into both their worlds as Beth struggles to hold on to hope and Carmel fights to remember her true identity. Hamer's lush use of language easily conjures fairy-tale imagery, especially of dark forests and Little Red Riding Hood. Although a kidnapped child is the central plot point, this is not a mystery but a novel of deep inquiry and intense emotions. Hamer's dark tale of the lost and found is nearly impossible to put down and will spark much discussion.--Mondor, Colleen Copyright 2015 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Hamer's debut novel poignantly details the loss and loneliness of a mother and daughter separated. Beth is recently divorced and raising her daughter, Carmel, on her own in a small town in Norfolk, England. Struggling with the pain of her husband's leaving her for another woman, Beth is determined to "fill the gap he'd left" for Carmelunaware that her daughter too would become a void. On Carmel's eighth birthday, the mother-daughter duo heads out to a storytelling festival together but leaves forever changed. The novel, fast-paced and with a mosaic quality to the scenes, diverges both in form and narrative. Beth and Carmel are each narrators, detailing their points of view of the events leading up to Carmel's abduction from the festival and their journeys thereafter. Hamer deftly develops child and woman. The two are woven together subtly: they both describe their loneliness as affecting their throats. They each call out to the other through the distance. Beth meticulously counts the days that Carmel's been missing while Carmel is lost to time altogether. However, the other characters feel more like haphazard plot constructions. For instance, one man goes from being like "a scorpion that might sting you if you get too close" to someone almost entirely feeble and deflated without a clear trajectory from one state to the other. A few characters are mentioned only to give vague hints to a unifying theme that remains underdeveloped even in the end, one girl named "Mercy" remains a mystery throughout, and three characters disappear almost entirely. When Beth throws a woman out of her home, shouting, "Get out of here.Take your God with you and don't ever come back," Hamer beautifully renders pain, exactly capturing the evisceration of loss, but she just falls short with the overall cohesion of the story. Exquisite prose surrounding a mother and daughter torn apart, but the book could have used more attention to less detail. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.