The Mountain in my Shoe, is also a popular saying and might remind you of something Muhammad Ali said in one of his numerous interviews. He said ‘sometimes a little pebble in your shoe will do your head in’. True, it is not the big things but the small, tiny details that bother and nag you which prove to be life disrupting or threatening. What appears calm and quiet on the face will more often than not have a deep, disturbing turmoil in its heart. That’s what the characters in this story made me realise, the centre of your universe might be tiny and untill you find it there remains a flury of sharp wind around you.
I want to thank Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for very kindly sending me a review copy of this book when I expressed interest in reading Louise’s books and participating in her next book’s blog tour. Thank you Karen xx
Title: The Mountain in my Shoe
Author: Louise Beech
Publisher: Orenda Books
Published: July 2016
Review format: eBook
Time Period: Contemporary
Profession of main characters: Student, a life book, Foster carer and child volunteer.
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 lifebook, 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.
Foster care system, neglected childhood, non family care givers, secrets and walking on the edge of life and horrific human behavior; these are some of the thought lines that came to my mind when reading this story. A constant feeling of being haunted remained with me throughout the time I read this book and even afterwards the story kept coming back to me. The ending of the story was a reassurance but I couldn’t help think and ask myself the What if? questions. You see the story is about Conor and his life from the time he’s born to the time he is adopted.
I am not familiar with the foster care system, having seen only the not so good part of it via movies, so this story was very informative. The foster care system and everything that comes with it is like a step mother with whom you can never be sure if she will love or hate you or keeping changing her feelings towards you. Some kids get a fair, loving step parent, some who atleast tolerate them and let them be and we all know how cruel or terrifying some of them can be.
In Conor’s story, he has Anne and Bernadette, his foster mum and volunteer friend of five years who are kind, loving and caring towards him. But he has had some horrific and emotionally deprived foster home experiences too, all by the time he was 6 years old. With constantly changing homes and people Conor has a tough time especially emotionally till he goes to live with Anne and has her and Bernadette as a constant and reassuring presence in his life. You will be amazed at how Conor’s emotional being turns out in the end.
We all know how kids have major brain development when they are below 10 years. Conor has a very rocky time and though he adapts and achieves the necessary milestones, out of these difficult circumstances his talent for drawing people comes out. It wrenched my heart and made me teary reading how drawing is an escape for Conor to silence his inner turmoil. The kid grabs a pen, paper, closes his eyes and draws people he’s seen with such detail that his drawings are vivid, detailed and lifelike, and all this by the time he is just 5/6 years old. And when in the story Conor says he can’t explain in words how he cannot teach someone else to draw as he himself doesn’t know how he does it, I was emotionally wrecked and amazed at such a human behavioral secret.
A lotus blossoms surrounded by mud and dirt and likewise sometimes 2 broken people make a truly exceptional kid. Conor is talented and his attitude and adaptiveness to his surroundings as he grows up is impressive. I kept rooting and murmuring a prayer or two for him while reading. I wish no child to go through what young Conor does but that’s the thing sometimes all we can do is be at the end of the dark tunnel for someone like Conor and help them once they come out of the dark phases of life.
The narrative is divided between accounts by the various foster care workers, carers and Conor throughout the 11 years. So we see Conor’s life unfold via the lifebook the social workers maintain for him and the various people in his life who add to it. It was interesting to see how coincidences meant Conor’s biological father found him and how Conor was vulnerable yet brave throughout the story. The author has delicately balanced the life of Conor and gave him a good ending. It made me happy to see how his life turned out to be because the what ifs were really scary and I couldn’t imagine how things would be if they didn’t turn out the way they did.
The author’s writing and narration of Conor’s story is elegant, delicately put across and I found it hauntingly beautiful. I really look forward to reading more of her work.
Book buy link: Kindle India
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.
Reviewed by Bharti.