AUTHOR: Louise Beech
PUBLISHER: Orenda Books
PUBLICATION DATE: September 30, 2016
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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.
The Mountain in My Shoe is so powerful in its emotion, it drew me into the story straight away and I was moved, shocked and completely captivated all the way through to the final page. I read and loved Louise’s debut How to Be Brave, but this book is very different and I liked that about it because I didn’t know what to expect, and so the author had me in the palm of her hand as she both surprised and consumed me with her beautiful second novel. Though there are some upsetting themes in this book, it appears above all to be a book about hope and the true meaning of family, and I absolutely loved it.
Bernadette is all set to leave her husband, Richard. He is abusive with both his words and actions and she has finally brought herself to walk out on him. But Richard doesn’t come home, and he’s not the only one. Conor, a boy brought up through the care system and who Bernadette has befriended, doesn’t arrive home either. What’s more, Conor’s lifebook is missing too. Bernadette discovers that to unravel the mystery of all three disappearances, she first needs to face up to and address her own life.
The Mountain in My Shoe alternates in chapters – from Bernadette or Conor’s perspective to extracts from the Book. Conor’s lifebook was a very moving piece of this novel. It’s honest and stays true to real-life stories of children who have spent their life in and out of care, with various different foster families. Stories from Conor’s lifebook are often sad, but not always. There is humour and creativity in Conor’s life, and he is an inspired child right from the moment we begin reading. The Book shows his true character and as the reader, have you fighting for his safe return to where he truly belongs. The lifebook is a very special piece of the novel.
Though the beginning of this book intrigued me, it was with the next chapter and the one after that and so on that I realised I had become incapable of putting the novel down, so engrossed by the engaging characters and the heart-achingly poignant story they were telling. Louise’s writing is an absolute joy to read. Her characters have real depth and emotion to them and the way she captures their feelings and their lives, both the ups and downs, makes me believe in each one of them completely as they, though fictional, are very real and human.
The structure, the narrative and the prose are all outstanding and there is a flow to Louise’s writing even when alternating between present day and the story in the ‘Book’ which has me transfixed. The Mountain in My Shoe comes across as such an effortless read yet the story inside is thought-provoking and unforgettable. The author has evidently put her heart and soul into writing this book and it was worth it. The Mountain in My Shoe is haunting and memorable, but most of all, it’s another unmissable novel from Louise Beech.