THROUGH THE CRACKS
Author: Honey Brown
Michael Joseph RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Narratives about a child lost and then found are not uncommon, but Through the Cracks turns a familiar theme on its head, focussing, over a short period of time, on the victim’s efforts to rejoin the world he’s been hidden from. It’s an unsettling read, with a pervading sense of detachment that mimics the young protagonist’s alienation from society and inability to demonstrate appropriate social and emotional behaviour. If you’re looking for a light-hearted read, this one is not for you – there is suggestion, rather than description, of child sexual abuse, among other dark themes. My mood does determine what I choose to read, so I waited to read this until I was in the right frame of mind – a good choice, I realised once I got into the book.
Through the Cracks reels readers in without delay: “Within the space of one week, Adam grew strong enough to stop him.” What a great first line – it’s a cracker! How could you not read on? After years of abuse, Adam has finally reached his tipping point and turns his anger on his abuser – his father. The teenage boy is ready to “jump the fence” that has kept him locked away for years; with the help of the streetwise Billy, Adam steps out into the world … and then the questions come thick and fast. Who is Adam really? Why was he hidden? And what’s Billy’s connection to it all? The two have to find a way to survive and stay under the radar, but as others get involved, it becomes obvious that one boy will have to fall through the cracks in order for the other to rejoin society.
This is my first Honey Brown book and it won’t be my last. Brown has a great talent for getting to the guts of a difficult issue and presenting it in a manner that makes it hard not to keep turning pages, even when it’s like a punch to the soul. Here, she’s tackled a number of issues that too often fall through the cracks – homelessness, abuse and neglect – and she does this with authenticity and an avoidance of sensationalism. The boys are working within a system that is not entirely in their favour (if at all), and so have to find ways to get around the system in order to survive. What’s sad is that this does happen. Every day. People fall through the cracks. With spot-on timing, keen observation and strong characterisation, Brown explores this sad state of affairs, as well as some of the more ugly examples of human behaviour, and delivers a story that does so much more than entertain – it compels the reader to think and it lingers in the mind.
If you enjoy psychological thrillers, give this one a go. You’ll be rewarded with a book that is unafraid to examine issues most of us would rather remain ignorant of, but does so without resorting to graphic imagery and never completely allows the grim atmosphere to take over. And, just as some fall people through the cracks, a glimmer of hope manages to push its way out of the cracks and it is this feeling that closes the novel. Whatever happens next in the characters’ stories may not be easy, but readers are left with the sense that light will still trump darkness.
Available from good bookstores and Penguin Books Australia. My copy was courtesy of Penguin Books Australia.
Bookish treat: I nibbled my way through Anzac biscuits as I read this. Very comforting.