Abducted from a car 20 years ago, a lost child reappears—or is he a fake; someone claiming his identity, someone with a violent streak?
In his U.S. debut, British novelist Newland delivers an intense portrait of mental conflict against a gritty inner-city background. The book we are reading is Beverley Cottrell’s journal, an attempt to “make sense of the past twenty years’ quiet madness.” Beverley’s settled life, comfortably married to Patrick, came to an end when their baby son Malakay was stolen. Now the marriage is over, her home is in public housing, and her job is teaching deprived teenagers at an after-school club. But everything changes when a boy follows her home one day, claiming to be her child. Although wary, Beverley lets him in and listens to his story. But is this young man really her son, and what sense can Beverley—who has complicated dreams of slavery, fire, cane and spider mothers—make of his story? This “journal of my pain” becomes a spiral of cathartic violence during which Newland deftly keeps the reader guessing.
Boisterous street slang and the opinions of a younger generation lend vitality to an earnest domestic tragedy, but this is an uneasy fusion of troubled psychology and social issues.