Hamer’s debut novel poignantly details the loss and loneliness of a mother and daughter separated.
Beth is recently divorced and raising her daughter, Carmel, on her own in a small town in Norfolk, England. Struggling with the pain of her husband’s leaving her for another woman, Beth is determined to “fill the gap he’d left” for Carmel—unaware that her daughter too would become a void. On Carmel’s eighth birthday, the mother-daughter duo heads out to a storytelling festival together but leaves forever changed. The novel, fast-paced and with a mosaic quality to the scenes, diverges both in form and narrative. Beth and Carmel are each narrators, detailing their points of view of the events leading up to Carmel’s abduction from the festival and their journeys thereafter. Hamer deftly develops child and woman. The two are woven together subtly: they both describe their loneliness as affecting their throats. They each call out to the other through the distance. Beth meticulously counts the days that Carmel’s been missing while Carmel is lost to time altogether. However, the other characters feel more like haphazard plot constructions. For instance, one man goes from being like “a scorpion that might sting you if you get too close” to someone almost entirely feeble and deflated without a clear trajectory from one state to the other. A few characters are mentioned only to give vague hints to a unifying theme that remains underdeveloped even in the end, one girl named “Mercy” remains a mystery throughout, and three characters disappear almost entirely. When Beth throws a woman out of her home, shouting, “Get out of here….Take your God with you and don’t ever come back,” Hamer beautifully renders pain, exactly capturing the evisceration of loss, but she just falls short with the overall cohesion of the story.
Exquisite prose surrounding a mother and daughter torn apart, but the book could have used more attention to less detail.