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This book may not be what you are expecting. The book begins with the disappearance of a young girl but she is rarely mentioned after the first chapter and then only in an oblique manner. The story is really about the inhabitants of a small village in the peak district and takes place over a 13 year period starting from the young girl's disappearance.The young girl and her parents are visitors to the village leaving the villagers to care about the lost girl, but there is never a sense that their lives are forever changed by the incident. The novel follows the seasonal and yearly changes of individual villagers over the next 13 years.
I enjoyed it more on the second listen through when I focused on the rhythm of the seasons and village life and put away my expectation of a good mystery. And for those readers who like resolutions to a story, I'd recommend a different book.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful
I am slowly getting through the 2017 manbooker longlist, as it is something I only discovered recently. These books are good and I intend to read the entire 2018 longlist when it is published.
This one warrants a strong 4 stars leaning towards 5. It is a beautiful, quiet, nuanced story. It is unique and original. Almost always when a book is about a missing child it will be a mystery and/or a thriller. Almost always the focus will be on solving the mystery of what happened to the child. But McGregor took a very different approach which I found both moving and powerful. He told the story of what happens to the people left behind in the little village where the child lived. And even in telling that story he took a unique approach by not focusing heavily on the parents of the child. In fact, whenever they are missing they are referred to as "the girl's mother" or "the girl's father." I loved this detail so much as it completely removed every aspect of their personalities and identities outside of their relationship to their daughter. It left them as parents with nobody to parent. I am a mother and I think that if I were in the shoes of these characters that is what I would be -- a shell of myself with only one identity: only a parent of a missing child.
The little moments in this book are so rich. When the girl's friends leave for college they find that every person they meet wants to talk about the girl. They don't escape the grief. It was so real.
Another aspect of the book that adds to the moody, sad and tense emotion of the book is the way McGregor uses the passage of time to build empathy and compassion. Each chapter emphasizes it. Each chapter revisits the loss by describing anniversaries and holidays. Each chapter shows how the lives of the villagers change, but also how this one event continues to resonate.
It is a beautiful book that made me cry.