On the eve of the new millennium, ten year old Amy Archer disappeared from her local playground without a trace. Her mother, Beth, has found it hard to get any kind of closure as she doesn’t know for sure whether Amy is dead or alive. Her obsession with finding out what happened was a factor in her marriage ending – her life seemingly becoming more desperate and erratic.
On the tenth anniversary of Amy’s disappearance, Beth has her annual visit to see a psychic – but this year, the outcome isn’t quite the same as previously, leaving Beth wondering if there may have been a breakthrough.
And then Libby arrives at Bath’s door with her ten year old daughter Esme, who is the spitting image of Amy – and seems to know things that only Amy could know and claims that she IS Amy. Although Libby only seems to be there begrudgingly and out of sheer desperation, are her and Esme very cleverly scamming Beth? Feeding off of her grief and need for closure. Esme can’t really be Amy reborn, can she?
At first I thought that this book would be some airy-fairy, spiritual ‘cute little ten year old girl reincarnated’ stuff to give some hope and love back to a grieving mother. And to be fair, that’s kind of how it started out. We see the depth of depression that Beth has sunk into, and we WANT her to be able to pull back out of it, and be given a lifeline to thinking that there can be more to her life – something to fill the Amy-sized whole that has dominated everything for ten years.
And I found myself rooting for Esme to be exactly who she said she was. And then, the mood shifts. Not only are we given cause to doubt Libby and Esme, but the whole thing wanders into really dark territory that I can understand many people (especially parents) wouldn’t feel at all comfortable reading.
If you don’t want to be forced into thinking about child murder or rape, then this definitely isn’t the book for you, but these things do unfortunately exist in the world, and I think the subject matter was handled very well. Yes, I felt uncomfortable in places – but that shows how well the characters had been formed. The twists and turns, trying to put the pieces together, trying to work out which version was actually the truth was well worth the occasionally uncomfortable journey.
And the climax, when it came still couldn’t have surprised me more.
If you can deal with the subject matter, then it is a very well written book. And personally, I could listen to Clare Corbett narrate every single book I ever listen to – she brings all the characters to life so well.