Tuesday 19 December 2023

What I've been reading in December

Just one book to share with you, and that was the book club choice of The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters

Before I start my review I should explain that although people said that it was an excellent book, I put off reading it for a couple of weeks after I picked it up from the library as I wasn't sure that I would be able to comfortably read it.  Those of us in the UK will remember the heartbreaking story in early 1993 of a little boy called Jamie who was taken by two ten year old boys in a shopping centre in the seconds that it took his mum to let go of his hand to get money out of her purse.  Little Jamie was just two years old and at the time and my son was almost three so you can imagine that the story hit me hard.  It is true to say that this affected me so much that I had a real sense of panic if I ever lost sight of my son at a park or indoor play area and the rule of holding hands whenever shopping was ingrained.  Little Jamie had unspeakable things done to him and whenever reports of his death appeared in the press I could not help but wonder how on earth his mum managed to cope with the loss of her little boy.  Whilst I knew from the reviews of the book that nothing untoward happened to Ruthie in the story,  I could not help but find the storyline of a child being snatched emotionally triggering.  

So that is why I was late starting the book, but having finally read it I can agree with the reviews that it is a very emotional, well written story.  On a summers day in the 1960s, a four year old Mi'kmaq girl called Ruthie disappears from a field in Maine where her family are picking berries.  Despite extensive searches by her family Ruthie is never found and the family have no alternative but to move back to their home in Nova Scotia when the berry season comes to an end.  Ruthie's six year old brother Joe was the last to see Ruthie and for the rest of his life he feels the guilt that maybe he could have done something to keep her safe.  

Meanwhile, in Maine a girl named Norma is growing up as an only child with an emotionally distant father and an overprotective mother.  Norma is plagued by dreams of herself in another life and as time moves on she is unsure if they are figments of her imagination or distant memories.  Was she adopted?  There are no photos of her as a baby and she clearly has different skin tone to her parents.  She is unable to discuss this with her mother as the moment she would try and broach the subject, her mother would develop a dreadful 'headache' and take to her bed.  

I have to agree with the reviews about how good this book is.  How one moment of impetuousness affects the lives of so many people.  How the unknown fate of a little girl threads tendrils of fear, loss and guilt to two very different families.  Apparently the author is a writer of Mi'kmaq and settler ancestry, and her knowledge of the lifestyle of these people at that time shines through her writing.  

This was a good end of year book and I'm looking forward to seeing which title our book club chooses for the first read of 2024.  


Patio Postcards said...

Thank you for the book review & recommendation. I saw real life Jamie's Mother interviewed earlier this year on her update to her book on the 30th anniversary of Jamie's disappearance. Truly a gut wrenching soul destroying story.

I imagine there are more real life tales similar to Ruthie's story. I'll check at the library to see if I can borrow.

Ruth said...

Young Jamie's story is one never to be forgotten.
I haven't heard of this title, but will be adding it to my ever-expanding TBR list.

Gail Is This Mutton? said...

I've never heard of this book but it does sound interesting. Child abductions stay in the mind, particularly the unsolved ones - Madeleine,Cheryl Grimmer in Australia, Ben Needham.

Barbara Eads said...

I'm going to add this to my list too. I'm getting to the point that I only read books that are recommended by people I trust! Thanks!