What would you do if someone turned up on your doorstep and announced that she thinks she’s your daughter? That’s what happens to Chris and Rose. They’ve had a solid marriage for 20 years (they’ve been planning a celebration party with family and friends for their anniversary), and they live a fairly uneventful, secure life with their teenage daughter, Julia.
Until one mistake from Chris’s past comes back to haunt him, and Katie arrives to rock their solid world. Events seem to conspire against them all, and she lands up having nowhere to go. Rose, being a good-natured sort (although she seems to be going through menopausal mood swings – I did find her sudden flashes of anger and irritation rather surprising at times), can’t help insisting that she stay with them. Strangely, nobody seems to query this, although Julia does occasionally ask why she’s there. However, because there’s virtually no age difference between them and because they get along really well, she too welcomes her into the family home as some of twin sister!
But strange things start to occur, and these then start to compound, making both Chris and Rose suspicious that Katie might not be who she says she thinks she might be (it is just a tiny bit complicated). However … even stranger is that neither of them questions anything she says, or seems to delve deeper into her story, even when it’s evident that it has more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese! This really did hamper the plot for me, and the book started to lose its edge.
The characters seem to be all over the place, eternally waiting, waiting for an answer (or an axe to fall?), and not going out and pursuing any answers for themselves. I know it’s fiction, but this did border slightly on fantasy at times. But that said, the strength of this book lies in the authenticity of its characters. Chris is … dare I say it … oh, so typically male! He just doesn’t want to deal with or face up to anything difficult. I literally pictured him stamping his foot like a toddler! He shrugs off any uncomfortable, awkward situation (and he finds himself faced with many) with banal humour, which more often than not, falls flat. He doesn’t seem to be one of life’s copers, and struck me as a bit of a wimp!
His wife Rose, on the other hand, clearly wears the pants in this partnership – well that’s the way she started off – it fluctuated a lot! Initially, being the writer, researcher type that she is, she checks up on stuff that Katie says. But that doesn’t remain consistent and she isn’t able to balance it out with her mothering role of wanting to welcome Katie into her home and look after her. I wanted her to remain cynical and suspicious, but she didn’t (or couldn’t).
I liked Julia a lot though! I loved her determination and her attempt to be independent, combined with that reticence that comes with being unsure about who she really is, combined with knowing how and who she might want to be. I found her really refreshing and real.
The original idea behind this book is what will catch readers’ attention. It opens up that ‘What If?’ conversation, which is always interesting.
I rate this as a 3.5 star read – rounded up to a 4 (as there are no half-star ratings!).
Jake lives in England and is the author of the standalone thrillers The Family Lie and The Choice, which hit the top 5 in Australia and was a bestseller in the UK and Canada.
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