A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself.
On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she's leaving, he doesn't come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she's befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor's foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband's secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all.
Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family ... and just how far we're willing to go for the people we love.
What did I think?
Oh my word! What an absolutely stunning piece of fiction, which sadly could be true to life for many children in foster care. I saw a lot of excitement on Twitter about Louise Beech's second book, The Mountain in My Shoe, and I have to say that my fellow book lovers have never been wrong yet. So I checked it out of the library to see what all the fuss was about. This is without doubt one of those books that suck you in from the start and you live and breathe every step of the journey with the characters. You feel their hopes and their fears and I cried my very own tears but still couldn't stop reading even as the words blurred and became (almost) unreadable.
Bernadette seems like quite a meek woman but she has finally built up the courage to leave her husband, Richard. Typically, as we know often happens with all best laid plans, he doesn't come home from work that night. On the same night that Richard goes missing, so does Conor, a young foster child who Bernadette has secretly volunteered to Befriend For Life. Also missing is Conor's Lifebook which Bernadette last saw on her bookshelf. Bernadette doesn't even need to think twice about which person is most important to her as she heads over to Conor's foster mum's house to see how she can help. As they trace Conor's last known footsteps, the tension builds as we fear for his safety and I also feared for my kindle's safety as I was gripping it so much at times.
Between each chapter there is an excerpt from Conor's Lifebook. A book that describes all his important milestones and memories that would otherwise be lost as he moves between foster homes. I don't know if this is something that social services actually do, but what a wonderful idea it is. You take it for granted that your parents will happily recount stories you can't remember from your childhood, but what if your parents weren't there? If you were in foster care and your memories were left behind when you changed families, who would remember them for you?
This book is as close to perfection as you'll ever get. Louise Beech is such a talented wordsmith that it is astonishing to find that this is only her second novel, yet exciting to think what is still to come from this gifted author. I have to give a special mention to the description of colours and sounds that virtually burst out of the pages, descriptions that are so vivid they are nothing like I have ever read before. Not just colours and sounds, but all of the descriptions are so stunningly exquisite that I didn't even need to close my eyes to imagine the scene.
The Mountain in My Shoe is a breathtaking story of a child in foster care and a marriage in crisis, and how they can both ultimately save each other. Told from several perspectives with such distinct voices, it is both heart-breaking and heart-warming. I'll show my age a bit now, but as GCSEs now have an A* grade, this is one book that is definitely worthy of a 5* rating.
If you only read one book this year, make it this one.