In Banister’s (My Brother’s Keeper, 2013) drama, a teen suspects that his adoptive father may have kidnapped him when he was a young boy.
Dushan Sava hardly remembers his mother, Marta, who was abducted by a Yugoslav army unit when Dushan was an infant. Foster dad Burt Sandor tells Dushan that his birth father, Dimitri, gave him up for adoption and is presumed dead after his fishing boat was lost at sea. But years ago, Burt had enlisted his cousin Carolyn Markos—already in legal troubles for her “unofficial adoption office in Liverpool”—to find him a son. So Carolyn used a babysitter gig to take 4-year-old Dushan from the Isle of Man to San Francisco. By the time Dushan and stepbrother Dani are in high school, they hope to escape the abusive Burt and track down Dushan’s parents, both of whom he believes are alive. Banister’s linear narrative abandons any pretense of mystery: readers are often ahead of the characters, as with knowing that Marta is indeed still alive. There’s still some suspense, however, particularly with readers’ knowledge of Burt’s shadiness. Banister’s novel features different levels of villainy. Burt, for one, is unquestionably evil, wanting to “replace” his leukemia-stricken son, Markos, before he dies so that monthly payments for his sons’ trust fund (set up by Burt’s mother) aren’t interrupted. Carolyn, meanwhile, is simply desperate, needing cash to pay off thuggish Mr. Aksoy. Dushan speaks to his parents in dreams and has “shared dreams” with Dani, but Banister wisely keeps these scenes vague, never confirming a psychic link. The relationship between the stepbrothers is well-developed and the most convincing element, resonating louder than Dushan’s hope that he’ll one day reunite with the parents he barely knows. When Dushan and Dani break free, at least momentarily, from Burt, the two get separated, resulting in the book’s most dramatic turn of events. Readers will want Dushan to find Dimitri and Marta, but it’s more imperative that the brothers, who together have endured abuse and tragedy, are side by side by book’s end.
Methodically paced, a story that never lags while engaging readers with unshakable characters.