My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - <3 hours
Publisher - Harper
Pages - 320
Blurb from Goodreads
A riveting, brilliantly written debut novel-a coming-of-age story with the strong voice and powerful resonance of Swamplandia! and The Secret Life of Bees—in which two young sisters attempt to hold the world at bay after the mysterious death of their parents.
Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.
Marnie and her little sister Nelly are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, Izzy and Gene, and they aren’t telling. While life in Glasgow’s Hazlehurst housing estate isn’t grand, they do have each other. Besides, it’s only one year until Marnie will be considered an adult and can legally take care of them both.
As the new year comes and goes, Lennie, the old man next door, realizes that his young neighbors are alone and need his help. Or does he need theirs? But he’s not the only one who suspects something isn’t right. Soon, the sisters’ friends, their other neighbors, the authorities, and even Gene’s nosy drug dealer begin to ask questions. As one lie leads to another, dark secrets about the girls’ family surface, creating complications that threaten to tear them apart.
I have had this book on my TBR for ages and picked it up last night as it had Christmas in it, the story was not anything like I was expecting. The blurb packs a punch immediately "
Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved." The story starts in Winter, just before Christmas with Marnie, 15 years old and her younger sister Nelly. The chapters are split and titled by the person who is talking in that chapter which makes for easy reading, despite their being a few voices telling their tale. As well as Marnie & Nelly, Lennie comes into the tale, he is the pervert next door, nosey and always watching, which causes concern for Marnie in case he sees them burying their folks. As the tale progresses we see there is more to Lenny than first suggested and we hear the tale from the perspective of the three main characters.
This is a great read, despite the dark content within it, murder of ones parents, abuse of the children, a pedophile next door, drugs, underage sex and thats just a few of the topics covered. Marnie is trying to cope with keeping up appearances so the authorities don't find out the girls are home alone, food, bills, education, keeping some semblance of a normal life. Nelly is a unique wee character, she is socially awkward, has no filter and sees the world in a unique light which cause Marnie concern and irritation in equal measure.
Lennie is a threat to the girls secret being exposed, between his nosey window watching and his wee dog constantly digging up their garden. However as the story progresses, the girls form a relationship with Lennie and he offers them support in ways they couldn't have imagined.
It is a story that is hard to put into one box, it covers a lot of content, is set in Glasgow so has some fresh language, swearing and behaviours that some people may find uncomfortable or upsetting to read. Whilst there is abuse, it is not heavily centred or described in the book, however it is enough for you to be aware it has taken place.
This is a fantastic, strong, gripping, dark and somewhat humourous in places, debut novel. I had never read this author before, got through this in under 3 hours, in one sitting and would certainly read more by this author! 5/5 for me this time and I would recommend it to anyone to be honest, certainly worth checking out and I will seek out what else is on offer from this author.
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