Book Review: The Mountain in my Shoe, by Louise Beech

Publisher:  Orenda Books

Publication Date:  30th September 2016 (Paperback) 

the-mountain-in-my-shoe-my-review

a-mountain-in-my-shoeGuiding me through tainted and tender moments, and the unspoken ones that bring you back down to earth with a bump, The Mountain in my Shoe wrapped its words around my heart. There is no doubt this is one reading experience I will never forget.

From the immense expression of the writing to the skilled switch of characters patiently taking turns to tell the story, we are introduced to an artistically gifted boy who is waiting for his whole life to take off but his unsettled past remains an anchor at times.

Those who care for him record their contributions in a special book, Conor’s “Life Book”. The additions to the book include reports from social workers, heartfelt letters from foster carers, or a simple memory of a treasured day trip, something, anything for Conor to reflect on when he’s grown when hopefully he will have the strength to process the intimate snippets of both the good times and the upheaval.

You can’t help but want to embrace him as people shift in and out of his life. Heck, I wanted to embrace the book itself when I’d finished it. The confusion and rejection was torturously overwhelming – I can’t even begin to imagine this level of emotional chaos.

Bernadette is just one such contributor to Conor’s Book as she is a registered volunteer who reaches out to those children affected by circumstances which see them in foster care. Bernadette was matched with Conor and meets him every other Saturday, without the knowledge of her husband who has some disconcerting ideas on how a marriage should be conducted. She chose this, to dedicate a regular visiting day to Conor, and it proves to be a decision that is as beneficial for her as much as it is for him.

Bernadette’s bravery to finally leave her husband of ten years coincides with the disappearance of Conor’s life book from her bookshelf where she’d hidden it. It’s missing, along with lots of other things from her life: understanding, independence, being worth something. But more importantly, so is the moment she gets to announce she’s walking away from him a man who expects precision-timed dinner as he walks through the door of their flat, but tonight he is late from work and her exit stalls.

In the midst of her trauma, a worrying phone call shadows everything, and she pushes the biggest decision of her own life away as she learns Conor has gone AWOL after leaving school. A traumatic journey to track Conor down involving Bernadette and his long term carer, Anne, see us learning the vulnerabilities of most characters. In no way does it attempt to excuse behaviour, it’s simply a testament to how anyone can take the wrong turn and become hopelessly lost and deserted.

There are admissions and reasoning I would never have anticipated in The Mountain in my Shoe, and there’s so much life nestled among the pages of this boy’s early years that his special yellow book could draw breath. I was willing him to find contentment, no matter how fleeting, not only for the boy but for Bernadette, his young mum, and the countless others who find themselves in similar, distressing situations.

This is an astonishing yet humbling book written with a sensitivity that cannot, and will not, fail to move you.

Rating:  5/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher with my thanks, and this is my unbiased review.)

the-mountain-in-my-shoe-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself.

On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his life book, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all.

Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family … and just how far we’re willing to go for the people we love.

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the-mountain-in-my-shoe-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

louise-beech-profile-picture

Louise Beech remembers sitting in her father’s cross-legged lap while he tried to show her his guitar’s chords. He’s a musician. Her small fingers stumbled and gave up. She was three. His music sheets fascinated her – such strange language that translated into music. Her mother teaches languages, French and English, so her fluency with words fired Louise’s interest. She knew from being small that she wanted to write, to create, to make magic.

She loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism. Her debut novel was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015.

She is inspired by life, history, survival and love, and always has a story in her head. Her debut novel, How to be Brave, came from truth – when Louise’s daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad’s real life sea survival story. Her second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, will be released in September 2016 and was inspired by her time working with children in the care system.

When she was fifteen Louise bet her mother ten pounds she’d be published by the time she was thirty. She missed this self-set deadline by two months. Her mother is still waiting for the money.

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