Sunday, 15 March 2020

Half a World Away, by Mike Gayle.

           Most times it makes me cringe to read that a novel is ‘heartwarming’.  Such a description usually means it’s heavy on the romance and pathos, and light on real-life situations to which the reader can relate, so I approached Mr Gayle’s novel with the necessary caution – and am happy to say that this story does indeed deserve to be called ‘heartwarming’ in the very best sense, and another praiseworthy adjective:   unputdownable.
             Kerry Hays writes to her little brother Jason:  they were both put into care when their mother disappeared;  Kerry was ten and Jason was eighteen months old.  She hasn’t seen him since, her beautiful little coloured brother (same mum, different dads) whom she loves to distraction, but she writes to him regularly, even though she is not allowed to know where he is:  he has to contact her.  Which is a bit hard as he doesn’t know she exists, and the authorities don’t have to inform him.  Still, Kerry believes that one day they will make contact again;  she has much to tell him as the years go by, including the fact that, in her thirties, she became a mother herself, an event that thrills her to the marrow:  she finally had her wish to love and care always for a vulnerable little being that is hers alone, a feeling she hasn’t experienced since she was everything to Jason that her mother wasn’t.  Kian’s dad is a space-waster, but Kerry doesn’t care.  They don’t need him!
            Kerry and her son are managing adequately;  they have a small flat on a semi-tough housing estate;  she cleans posh houses for a living and has a reliable income:  Jason by contrast has been adopted into a wealthy family who, having already had their children thought it only right that they give a needy little someone the opportunity to shine and be loved by them.  Jason is now Noah Martineau, a Barrister with a beautiful home in London’s Primrose Hill and a family to match, a fact that makes Kerry burst with pride when she eventually makes contact with him, the only problem being that he has never been interested in his origins;  he’d much rather face the present and speculate about the future, much to his wife’s exasperation:  in fact his refusal to face up to his past has induced her to kick him out, which means that he is not receptive to a stranger turning up professing to be his half-sister.
            Mr Gayle tells the poignant story of Noah and Kerry’s new relationship with humour and grace as they both traverse the strata of British society:  racism as everywhere in the world,  constantly rears its ugly head, but it doesn’t stop old love from being remembered, nor new, loving relationships from being forged, even in the face of tragedy.  FIVE STARS.        

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