By: M. Jonathan Lee
Published: October 26, 2020
Publisher: Hideaway Fall
This family drama is one of hurt, painful memories, redemption, and forgiveness. We meet Samuel Darte as an adult, living in the house he grew up in, alone. His marriage has fallen apart. His job is barely even a job as he does the bare minimum to stay employed. His younger brother, Tom, is in a band…or so he says and spends most of his time under the influence. His father is in prison for the supposed murder of their mother who went missing when Samuel was a teenager. And, a new revelation is that his Gramma is dying and living in a long-term-care facility very close to his home. Sam had no idea because he hadn’t spoken to her since a devastating incident many years ago.
Sam decides (with the explicit demands from his father over the prison phone) to visit his Gramma. This visit turns into daily visits as Samuel opens his heart and mind to revisit the past and make a new connection with his Gramma before she and the secrets she may hold are gone forever.
The writing is very descriptive and the author has a sincere talent for the use of figurative language. His descriptions of feelings and appearances were spot on and allowed me to capture images in my mind of the characters and places in the novel. Simple scenes at the park or in his Gramma’s room were brought to life through Lee’s storytelling.
Sam is consumed with the disappearance of his mother. Even though his dad is serving prison time for her supposed murder, not everything is so cut and dry and Sam spends evenings pouring over evidence that was collected over the years. It pained me that Sam seemed unable to move on with his life and find a new purpose. The visits with his Gramma only made this obsession even more prevalent.
As Gramma moves into her final days, others from Sam’s past are able to return to his life an offer him the hope that he needs to find a new focus and hopefully move on. As the novel ends, the reader is left with a hopeful tone and that Sam will be able to move out of the past and into a new future for himself. Then the final chapter socks you with a punch and leaves you incredulous.
There are lots of emotions in this story from Sam’s past family pain to his current renewed relationship with his Gramma. Readers will be empathetic for Sam and want only the best for him.
I was gifted a UK hardcover copy which is a unique double-ended upside-down version. This is only available from UK booksellers. But, in my opinion, it doesn’t add or take away from the story. It just makes it unique but doesn’t affect the storyline in any way.
M Jonathan Lee is a nationally shortlisted author who was born in Yorkshire where he still lives today with twins, James and Annabel.
His debut novel, THE RADIO was shortlisted for The Novel Prize 2012. He has spoken in schools, colleges, prisons, and universities about creative writing and storytelling and appeared at various literary festivals including Sheffield’s Off the Shelf and Doncaster’s Turn the Page festival.
He is a tireless campaigner for mental health awareness and writes his own column regularly for the Huffington Post. He has recently written for the Big Issue and spoken at length about his own personal struggle on the BBC and Radio Talk Europe.