FIRST AID by Janet Davey


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A fractured family deals with both a mother’s and a daughter’s need to run away.

Several years after her husband has left her for another woman, Jo packs up her three children and heads from Brighton to the London home of her grandparents, Dilys and Geoff, who raised her. But during the trip, while Jo is busy with rambunctious toddler Annie and reliable son Rob, sullen teenager Ella jumps from the train and runs away. As unthinkable as it seems, Jo does not panic, stop the train or even cancel her trip, but rather presses onward to London, telling Dilys and Geoff that Ella has simply opted to stay with her father. Back in Brighton, Ella guiltily skulks around, squatting in her family’s abandoned apartment, dropping in on her father and his new wife and spending time with friends. What she really seems to be doing is waiting for her mother’s boyfriend, Felpo; it was after a violent fight with him, when he accused her of sleeping with another man, that Jo decided to run away to London. Actually, Ella admits to Felpo, she made up the stories about Jo and her friend Trevor that sparked his jealousy. When Ella reunites with her father, Jo and her ex-husband must come together to try to pick up the pieces and build a more stable life for Ella and her younger siblings. Davey successfully uses the mundane details of daily life to conjure a drab and often unpleasant domestic setting. But no matter how miserable the family relationships, it’s difficult to accept Jo’s casual reaction to her daughter’s potentially tragic disappearance.

Unbelievable and unlikable characters undermine a well-developed setting.

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 2006
ISBN: 0-316-05997-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Back Bay/Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2006