Updated: Mar 21, 2019
With the opening chapter we are introduced to an unnamed character who is obviously very troubled, and damaged. He hides away from the crowds at a music festival and seems painfully introverted. Disturbingly, his thoughts turn to violence, rage and killing, and the reader is left with no doubt that he is capable of all these things.
The second chapter introduces the protagonist of the novel. Sophia is a social worker at the Dalton Correction Centre working with troubled boys. Paradoxically Sophia is an introvert, working in a job where communication is the most important tool that she has at her disposal. Sophia, however, is excellent at her job and has forged a tenuous bond and rapport with the boys, slowly earning their respect in the process. When we are introduced to Sophia’s father, who is on his deathbed dying from cancer, we are given an insight as to why Sophia feels so strongly and is so passionate about her job and helping these troubled boys. The novel flows along with the family working out what to do after their father’s death. The dividing of the estate becomes an issue when an unknown daughter comes into the picture. Sophia starts having strange fits, which she often had during her childhood. The narrative jumps back and forth between Sophia and her family, and Sophia at work. With all of this unfolding the enigmatic character keeps popping up in chapters, lurking in the background, on the fringes of the narrative, adding an element of suspense, curiosity, and tension. This novel brings the nature vs nurture debate back into the spotlight. This debate has interested me for years. Did a troubled young offender of crimes such as violence, rape, theft, become the way he or she is, developing these traits because of the environment they were brought up in, the parents who brought them up, the social circle they were a part of? Or are these character traits embedded within a person’s DNA, their genes? Would they have turned out the way they did no matter what nurturing they received? It also touches on memory, how we recall memories and how accurate this process of memory recovery is. It reminded me of The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes in this respect. This is a wonderful novel, which builds to an explosive ending. I feel to say anymore may spoil the overall experience of the novel. It contains some lovely, skilful writing. I love the metaphorical style that Haynes uses, including the title. A great read which make the reader think of issues from all sides.4 Stars.
Carmel Haynes is retired after working thirty-plus years with young people. She is a native Oregonian wit a fascination for understanding what shapes human development, attitudes and behaviour. This is her debut novel, inspired by the many enjoyable and unique misfits who have crossed her path and influenced who she became.