A macabre tale of unrequited love and ghostly children, by the British author of the acclaimed Adrian Mole series and, most recently, The Queen and I (1994). When his dog starts tearing at a rubbish bag during their morning walk on the heath, Christopher Moore is simply annoyed. He's horrified, however, to discover that what the dog was after was a sack filled with fetuses—one of which, perfectly formed, he wraps up and takes home. This shocking behavior is soon explained: At 49, Christopher has never recovered from the dismay of losing his own child. Seventeen years ago, Angie and Chris were in love and expecting—unbeknownst to Chris, though, Angie didn't want a baby and wasn't so sure she wanted Chris either. Now, the discovery of the fetus on the heath triggers an obsessive curiosity in him, and he seeks out Angela, still living in the same city, grown double her youthful weight and married to a priggish businessman she no longer loves. Passion is instantly reignited between the two, though Angela can't fathom Christopher's preoccupation with their dead baby. Here, Townsend deftly weaves an element of grim fantasy into the tale, with the appearance of the ghost of their daughter, now 17, and a beautiful "schoolgirl," who is always invisibly by Angela's side. Chris and Angie's guilt is contrasted with that of Crackle and Tamara, a young punk couple who frequent the dingy cafÇ where Angela and Christopher rendezvous. Crackle, a Satan-worshiping crackhead, dominates his simple-minded young wife and has abused his infant daughter, who lies comatose in the hospital. A week in the two couples' lives traces the growing relationship between Christopher and Angela and the disintegration of Crackle and Tamara's. At the close, though, a horribly botched suicide attempt by Angela's husband, and a new baby on the way for Tamara, combine to create a bizarre but satisfying end. A slim, riveting tale.
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