What I Thought…
While I’d heard great things about this, I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did – how wrong I was! That will teach me to ignore the comments of Melina Marchetta on the front cover of my copy, singing this book’s praises – silly Bernadette! And I’m so glad I was wrong. Much of my preconceived notions (and let’s face it, we all have them!) came from my line of work – I deal with scenarios like this on a daily basis, sadly enough, and I wasn’t sure Doller would do it justice. Like I said, how wrong was I!
This book doesn’t skim over the big issues; it jumps right in from the beginning and swims around in them. It deals with the complex issues of child kidnapping and mental illness in an honest and real manner, which is no easy feat. The unpredictability of those with untreated mental illness and the associated stigma is cleverly incorporated without smacking you in the face. It felt genuine and natural, without screaming “look at me, I’m a BIG ISSUE, take notice!” It was a fresh and current take on mental illness in the context of child kidnapping, which happens far more often than you might think. Risk-taking behaviours and the potential impact of such behaviours are also a focal point, and this novel also deals with sexual abuse in a frank manner. Such risk-taking behaviours and sexual abuse were a realistic byproduct of Callie’s experiences as a kidnapped child, and didn’t feel tacked on to give the story extra unnecessary drama.
Family is also a big part of this book, in more ways than one. It examines the relationship between a kidnapped child and her mother, with Callie struggling to reconcile her anger towards her mother with her love for her as the only parent she’s ever known. A major storyline is Callie’s integration into the family she never had the chance to know, and I adored Callie’s father. He could’ve been embittered towards his ex-wife for what she did, denying him the chance to know his daughter and to be her father, but he wasn’t. He clearly recognised that this would only alienate Callie and he did what his ex-wife didn’t, fostering her relationship with Callie despite everything that had happened. On top of all that, the family Callie finds she belongs to is a big Greek family! From my experience, Greeks are very similar to Italians and family is a very important part of Greek life. Not only does Callie have to get used to having a family, that family is big and seemingly in her face (in a loving way) at every turn.
And then there’s the romance. On top of all the issues I’ve mentioned, Doller manages to incorporate a romance that is as sweet and sexy as promised. Alex is the perfect distraction for Callie, and while their romance isn’t without it’s own problems, it was a welcome side story that often provided some lightheartedness this book was otherwise lacking. And while we’re on the topic of Callie, can I just say how much I loved her as a character – she was raw, she was real and I just wanted to give her a big hug through most of the book. In fact, all of the characters were pretty awesome in their own way, except for Callie’s mum for obvious reasons. I couldn’t bring myself to like her at all, I’m nowhere near as understanding as Callie’s dad!
I’m so glad I read this book; I thought I was going to be overly critical due to my job but it was because of my job that I was able to appreciate this book for its authentic portrayal. I’ve yet to read Something Like Normal but I suspect Trish Doller has become an autobuy author for me!
Rating: 4.5 Stars
What about you, have you read Where the Stars Still Shine? Were you as moved by it as I was?