Carrie, Damian and Charlie had an idyllic life. And on a perfect summer’s day, they go to a Norfolk beach and Charlie disappears. He is never found. His parents are left with no answers as to what happened, and inevitably their marriage breaks down.
The book opens 3 years later, with Carrie about to open a new shop while struggling to come to terms with the state her life is currently in.
Molly and her young son Max live on their own, and we soon learn that Molly’s husband Rupert, is ‘out of the picture’ due to a severe mental breakdown, the violent nature of which becomes clearer to us as the story unfolds.
Slowly, we come to realise that Max and Charlie are in fact closely intertwined after they had met briefly on that day at the beach. Molly is disturbed when she hears Max ‘talking’ to someone, and he tells her that it is ‘Charlie’. She puts it down to the usual ‘invisible friend’ phase that many children experience, but eventually she recognises that this isn’t the case. And when her husband Rupert returns, with plans of an inconceivable nature, she is forced to reconcile herself with the fact that ‘Charlie’ might be the only one able to help them.
In the meantime Carrie is grappling with her new life and with dealing with her ex-husband, best friend Jen, rather attractive neighbour, Oliver and difficult mother, Pam. And of course, there is that constant feeling of discomfort and uncertainty that is the Charlie-shaped gaping hole in her life.
The story is gripping, even though the romantic aspects might be a bit clichéd and predictable. Nevertheless, one cannot help but feel deeply for Carrie who has suffered the most devastating experience a parent can experience, made even worse as she has had no closure regarding what happened to her child
The supernatural elements of the book are dealt with realistically and there are no ‘airy-fairy’ ideas at play here. For those who shy away from books with a paranormal theme, be assured, this is not the book’s main focus, and is very much a secondary theme. The primary theme here is human relationships. How we deal with pain, and how we relate it to our relationships with those closest to us.