Hovering somewhere between chick-lit–ish comedy and heartbreak, this is the tale of a British couple moving, with their first child, born severely disabled, to a run-down farmhouse in a wild corner of France.
London-based chef Anna and composer Tobias respond differently to the birth of their mentally and physically challenged daughter, Freya. Anna is consumed with love while Tobias doesn’t even want the baby to come home. The deal they strike is to relocate to Les Rajons, a wrecked, remote but scenic French estate, bringing Freya with them. Les Rajons is a domestic nightmare: dirty, neglected, rat-infested. Yet Tobias and Anna settle in, adding some quirky characters to their awkward family, like free spirit Julien, who lives in a tree, and mysterious but angelic Kerim, who repairs the house at no charge. While Anna deals with the chaos by imposing order in the kitchen and Tobias embarks on a film score, the tone can seem light, but there are dark episodes too alongside the interminable stress and complicated emotions of caring for a child who will never develop or recognize her parents. Crises come and go, and over time, both parents learn lessons in love and responsibility.
Although it follows a conventional makeover format, Shah’s readable debut, drawn in part from personal experience, touches deeper, less predictable notes.