I stumbled across this book in the library, and was instantly hooked by a review talking about how it’s a “haunting book and a tantalizing read”. In my opinion, this book fulfills its promise by exploring the mother-daughter relationship in an original way.
Grace is a single mother who struggles up to bring up her four-year old daughter, Sylvie. However, Slyvie is an atypical child in many ways, she refuses to call Grace “mum”, instead preferring to use her name, she has a deathly fear of water, and she just started drawing the same house repetitively. Eventually, her strange statements lead Grace to wonder if Sylvie was recalling a past life, leading her, Sylvie and Dr Adam Winters on a trip to Coldharbour, Ireland to find out the truth.
Ms Leroy does a wonderful job with the first half of the novel, gradually building up the sense of helplessness Grace feels as Sylvie gets worse and worse, and how this makes her desperate enough to consider the implications of Sylvie’s strange behavior. In addition, she effectively depicts the effects taking care of having an atypical child has on Grace’s job and relationships, as she is slowly isolated from her friends, who do not know how to deal with Sylvie’s behavior.
The second half of the book, in Ireland, concerns Grace and Adam’s attempts to solve the mystery concerning Sylvie, that due to its lack of background, feels slightly implausible to me. This isn’t the author’s fault, because the background needed would have made the book slightly too long. It does, however, keep the same tone with the first half of the book, with a largely satisfying ending.
My only concern about this book is the idea of reincarnation raised. However, after reading it, I found that Ms Leroy did not seem to propagate the idea of reincarnation as fact, because of how every character was skeptical of the idea even to the end, and in fact, there was no extensive description of the purported mechanisms of reincarnation. To me, it felt like this was a technique in order to raise the question of a mother-daughter bond, highlight Grace’s fear the Sylvie did not regard her as her mother.
Hence, I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy a story about the mother-daughter relationships. In addition, although I feel that the issue of reincarnation is not very significant considering its extent in the book, I would still recommend this for older readers who can understand the use of reincarnation as a plot device rather than a propagation of the falsehood.
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