The imprint of Penguin, ‘Doubleday’ is publishing yet another gem, now from the debut author Amanda Berriman. Her first novel is the innocently dark novel ‘Home’ and is one that cannot remain unread and is due to be released on the 8th February 2018. Berriman is a primary school teacher who has used her understanding of the child’s mind to compose this disturbingly beautiful interpretation of how children view the world.
The story of a vulnerable family is told through the hauntingly naïve narration of four-and-a-half-year-old Jesika, as she speaks of her understanding, or lack of, what is going on around her. The book is littered with copious grammatical mistakes such as ‘forgotted’ rather than ‘forgotten’, to simulate her thoughts and force the reader to think in the way she does.
Through her eyes we soon understand that her family consists of herself, little brother Toby and her struggling single mother, Tina, after their father left them when Toby was born. It’s devastating to read how she accepts the poverty she and her family live in, as she is such a positive thinking little girl, but it is all she has ever known. She normalises the dirty needles that litter their apartment building, or the music blaring through the floor, because she does not know a life outside of it.
You can really see how Berriman’s experience in teaching has allowed her to create such a believable reflection of a child’s mind to expose a new way of talking about such serious topics. This novel crushes you, empowers you, and enlightens you all in the same (roughly) 300 pages. It is crafted in such an extraordinary way that perfectly captures the age of ‘I’m mature in my head by I don’t know the words to use yet’. Everything that was written is what you would expect to come out of a 4-year old mouth.
Whilst we are in Jesika’s narration, we see her justifications behind throwing a tantrum, such as refusing to eat her pasta without any cheese. We can sympathise with the mother’s perspective, but as we can see Jesika’s reasoning, we also sympathise with her…it adds such an interesting element to the novel. My focus was heavily drawn to the moments where Jesika tells us her mother’s expression, which shows us how much she is struggling because we can infer these traits, whereas Jesika cannot. The distance we then have from Tina, not knowing her thoughts, keeps us feeling useless by not being able to help.
When her mother and Toby suddenly get taken into hospital, we are taken with Jesika into foster care and watch as she experiences her first two story house, her own bed and later her excitement when she is permitted go and stay with her best friend Paige’s family.
As the plot takes an unexpected darker turn from a struggling families daily life, Jesika desperately tries to communicate something to others that she just doesn’t understand because she is so young. From Jesika overhearing snippets of broken conversations, the reader knows exactly what is happening, as well as inferring from Jesika’s own thoughts and her mother’s narrated expressions.
I ended up getting so frustrated and wanted to stop and shake Jesika and tell her to just tell somebody what was going on! But as a child that doesn’t understand…you feel as if you have a duty of care over her and should intervene because you understand her thought process, as well as the situation she is so muddled over, but are ultimately left useless watching her deal with it in the only way she knows how. I couldn’t stop reading because I just didn’t want to leave her on her own!
The only issue I had with the book is that the ending seemed a bit skimmed over and ended very quickly. You get closure but compared to the amount of detail in the rest of the novel, the ending was a bit glossed for how much time I had invested.
However, the story is incredible and so unique. It was so refreshing to read something like this and would recommend ‘Home’ to anyone because of the issues it deals with, issues that are so prominent in today’s society makes this a book that needs to be circulated and praised for shining a light into the dark. You feel as though you really are reading from the perspective of a someone so young, which I applaud because it is a difficult thing to achieve! I look forward to reading Berriman’s next works.
Amanda Berriman was born in Germany and grew up in Edinburgh, reading books, playing music, writing stories and climbing hills. She works as a primary school teacher and lives on the edge of the Peak District with her husband, two children and dogs.
Amanda Berriman is on Twitter and you can access her page here.
Home is available now from Doubleday an imprint of Penguin Random House you can get a copy here.
Review my Marika Lomax
You can find Marika on Twitter here.
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