Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

I dream about Carmel often. ~ Opening of The Girl in the Red Coat



The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer
Faber & Faber; 2016
Crime Fiction; 304 pgs

From Goodreads: 
Kate Hamer's stand-out debut thriller is the hugely moving story of an abduction that will keep you guessing until the very last page. Carmel has always been different. Carmel's mother, Beth, newly single, worries about her daughter's strangeness, especially as she is trying to rebuild a life for the two of them on her own. When she takes eight year-old Carmel to a local children's festival, her worst fear is realised: Carmel disappears. Unable to accept the possibility that her daughter might be gone for good, Beth embarks on a mission to find her. Meanwhile, Carmel begins an extraordinary and terrifying journey of her own, with a man who believes she is a saviour.
It was almost eerie how similar The Girl in the Red Coat was to Gilly Mcmillan's What She Knew in the beginning. At least in terms of the books being about single women, each of whom were left by their significant others for younger women. And each who had 8 year olds who disappeared one day after wandering off. Both novels capture the fear and grief a mother goes through when her child is missing. I probably noticed the commonalities more since I read them so close together. Still, the two books are very different in many more respects. Which, of course, is a good thing. 

While in Mcmillan's book, the reader does not know what happened to the protagonist's son, the reader knows pretty quickly who is behind the disappearance of Carmel, the young girl in The Girl in the Red Coat. The novel is told from the alternating perspectives of a frantic mother and her confused and frightened daughter. Hamer's book got under my skin. It was a difficult book for me to read, especially in the early days and weeks of Carmel's kidnapping. Beth's anguish and grief are palpable. She is constantly second guessing herself, blaming herself for what's happened. As time passes, she finds comfort from surprising and not so surprising places. All the old grievances she might have had pale in comparison to what she is going through now. She slowly begins to rebuild her life, but always missing her daughter.

Even more compelling is Carmel's own part in the novel, about the initial kidnapping and what follows. She is so innocent and trusting. She is often lost in her own thoughts and is easily distracted. It was impossible not to feel afraid for her, especially as a mother of a young girl myself. The man who kidnaps Carmel  is quite devote, his faith driving his actions. He believes she has a special gift and that it is his responsibility to develop and share it with the world. The two lead a nomadic life, joining with his girlfriend and her daughters. Carmel forms a friendship with the other girls, and comes to think of them all as a family and yet still somehow apart from them.

I enjoyed the novel quite a bit, having a hard time putting it down. At times there an uncanny quality that appears in reference or around Carmel that can be interpreted in a couple different ways. I love it when an author is able to do something like that well, and I think Kate Hamer does for the most part. There were only a couple instances in which it felt a little off.

On one hand, you have a story about a mother grieving the loss of her daughter, looking for her in every corner, and learning to survive without her. On the other, you have the story of a girl stolen from the mother she loves and forced into a completely unfamiliar life where she is both revered and neglected. The mother/daughter bond is strong between them even with the distance and the unknown. While not a heart-stopping thriller as one might initially expect, it is a very compelling read. It is also quite heartbreaking at times. 


To learn more about Kate Hamer and her work, you can find her on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Girl in the Red Coat on the TLC Book Tours route!



Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.



© 2016, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

19 comments:

  1. I read about this book last year on some other blog that I can't remember now. I ordered it from the UK and it still sits on my shelf. Anyway, I'll get to it at some point before long. I liked how you compared it a bit to WHAT SHE KNEW (or as my copy said BURNT PAPER SKY). I bet this one was a little tough for you.

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    1. Kay - I don't know why I torture myself with books like this given my fear, but it was good and I am glad I read it. It was very different from What She Knew, thankfully, but I couldn't help but mention the similarities.

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  2. I'm wanting to push myself a bit out of my comfort zone this year but I'm just not sure about child abduction - especially as seen through the mother's eyes. This does sound intriguing and I'm glad the reader knows what happens to the child. I'm just not sure I'm ready for being this far out of my comfort zone! At least not for a little while - it might be easier when I don't have a small child.

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    1. Katherine - I know what you mean. It's hard to read books like this when you have young children.

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  3. I've seen this book around but didn't pick it up. I wasn't sure why and I blame it on my not-buying mood then. I'm glad you enjoyed this book so I might want to add this to my wishlist.

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    1. Melody - I have moments like that too. :-) The missing child theme seems to be a common trend right now, and given you had recently read What She Knew, this one might not have grabbed your attention. It is worth reading though, I think, if you get the chance!

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  4. I can see why this was tough to put down but I bet it was gut wrenching.

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    1. Kathy - Yes, it was both. I am glad I read it!

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  5. There seems to be a few newer releases centering on child disappearance/abduction in the past year. There is room for all of them if they each bring something new to the table. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I've been eyeing it and considering reading it. Same for Burnt Paper Sky. Don't think I would read both close in time to each other, but both sound good!

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    1. Rita - It does seem that way, doesn't it? Fortunately the ones I have read so far are all different from the other.

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  6. I should be getting this one from the library soon. I can see how it would be upsetting & compelling at the same time. Now, if only I can read it before it's due back...

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    1. Diana - I hope you like it when you read it! I found it hard to put down, and hopefully you will too.

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  7. I'm glad you liked it! This one was on my radar, but I somehow managed to read three child kidnapping books already this year and I'm burned out. But that just means I have a good one to look forward to in a few months! :)

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    1. Lindsay - I understand. Reading too many book with similar themes in a row can be too much. I think you might like this one, but waiting to read it is probably a good idea. :-)

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  8. Abductions are one of my worst fears right now, so I don't know about this book. But I know that's one sensitive topic for you too and so the fact that you enjoyed it makes me want to try it nevertheless.

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    1. Athira - Me too! Well second to a car crash, maybe. I should know better than to read books like this, given my fear. I e-mailed the ending of this one and What Shew Knew to a fellow blogger so she would know if she'd be comfortable with the other one. I can do the same for you. ;-)

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  9. Heartbreaking seems like the perfect word to describe this book. I am looking forward to reading it and seeing how things turn out in the end.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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    1. Heather - I hope you enjoy it. It is a good one!

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  10. You might like What Was Mine, a book about a woman who kidnaps a baby and isn't found out till the child is 20 years old.
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25111142-what-was-mine?ac=1&from_search=1

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