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. Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family … and just how far we’re willing to go for the people we love.
This story opens with Bernadette. Her bags are packed and she is waiting for her husband Richard to come home from work. He’s always home at six, exactly six, but he’s late…so she waits. She is determined to wait and tell him face-to-face that she is leaving him. Her waiting is interrupted by a phone call from Anne.
“He didn’t come home,” says Anne, tearful.
For a moment Bernadette wonders how she knows. It isn’t possible. Anne has never met Richard. The women have become close recently and despite not being the most forthcoming person, Bernadette opened up once about her marriage worries. She didn’t share any specifics but admitted she felt isolated at Tower Rise. It was good to share with someone – a someone completely separate.
“Is he there with you?” asks Anne.
And now Bernadette realizes she doesn’t mean Richard. She’s talking about Conor.
Bernadette puts her desire to tell Richard she is leaving on the back burner and rushes over to Anne’s house. They must work together in order to find and bring Conor back home.
Anne is Conor’s foster mom. Conor is ten years old and has lived in eleven different places, ten of them before the age of six. He loves to draw and paint – it helps to calm him down and is a means of escape for him.
Bernadette is Conor’s BFL (Befriend for Life). BFL is a volunteer organization that pairs a foster child with a police-checked adult. She takes Conor out a couple of times a month to give his foster parent a little break, but more importantly to give Conor one-on-one time, where the total focus is on him. No matter what foster home Conor is in, she is still his BFL, his constant friend for the past five years.
“Conor has been like my child,” says Bernadette.
“I know,” says Anne. “He belongs to everyone and no one. That’s why I’ve always fostered children, rather than adopting one. I don’t want to make them mine, I just want to help them find where they really belong, I suppose.”
The story is told from the perspective of Bernadette, Conor, and The Book. The Book is referring to Conor’s Lifebook. It is filled with medical information, social worker updates, important life events, personal letters, and other things that continue to be added until Conor is eighteen. When he turns eighteen the book is his. It’s his history that might otherwise be lost in the foster care system, especially if a child is moved around lot. I loved The Book chapters! I thought it was an extremely unique way of telling us Conor’s story.
I felt that the first half of this story was a bit slow to evolve, but about halfway in I was completely invested in these characters’ lives and read the second half of the book in one sitting. It was an emotional roller coaster. There were a couple of moments when I thought to myself “oh no” and then “oh good.”
Louise Beech has written a story of love, hope, determination, and compassion. She also looks at the institution of family, and what a family really is.
Upon finishing the book I took a deep breath and said, “Wow.” When I realized I did that I knew that was the perfect way to sum up my review…Big Sigh, Wow!
My Rating: 4.5/5
Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication Date: 7/23/2016 (US)
Pages: 300 (eBook)