The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

Book Description:

Published: February 26, 2015

She is the missing girl. But she doesn’t know she’s lost.

Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children’s festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift…

While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is – and who she might become.

Review –

When I started this book I had high expectations but at the end I felt let down.

Sensitive eight-year-old Carmel  is spirited away by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. As Beth, her mother, desperately searches for her, Carmel realises that her kidnapper has not taken her at random: he believes she has a special gift. Told in the alternating points of view of the grieving mother and the missing daughter, it keeps the reader turning pages.

Carmel’s sections hold most of the action of the story: we watch her slowly understand her captor’s bizarre plans and struggle to retain her identity as months, then years, pass. As she loses track of time, so does the reader: her captivity takes on an aimless, dreamlike quality. Characters drift in and out of the narrative like ghosts. and  the author does this to help  convey Carmel’s mental state.

For a thriller, I didn’t really see anything that traumatizing, except the initial kidnapping and some readers may question the story’s sudden and tidy ending, which feels less the result of the characters’ actions and more the workings of chance. But Hamer’s novel aims to be more than a thriller, and the real heart of the book is not its suspense, but its explorations of grief and how we live through it.

All in all, I’m glad I read it, but once was enough.

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