I’m delighted to be one of the last stops on the Agora (the new name of Ipso books) blog tour for:
Missing Pieces by Laura Pearson
This novel was rescued from Ipso Books’s slush pile by an intern, which turned out to be a jolly good thing, for Missing Pieces is an engaging summer read – a family drama with a heart.
The book is in two sections which are told some thirty years apart. However, throughout, the dated chapters are subtitled with a number of days ‘after’. It begins, 21 days after, in a funeral home.
The coffin was too small. Too small to contain what it did, which was not only Phoebe’s body, but a large part of Linda too. […]
And Linda approached the coffin slowly, looked in at the girl who couldn’t possibly be Phoebe. Who was too small, and still, and quiet, to be Phoebe.
And Linda felt like getting inside it, curling up with her daughter and going to sleep.
But the coffin was too small.
When a child dies, part of their parents’ dies with them. Linda and Tom had had two daughters, now they were left with one. Esme is three years older than Phoebe was, and it’s very hard for her to see her parents suffer so. At this early stage in the book, we don’t know how Phoebe died.
Linda is also pregnant, and at her scan ’29 days after’ she asks a question of the doctor:
‘Is it too late to have an abortion?’
Linda heard Tom’s intake of breath and saw the flash of shock that Dr Thomas tried to hide. She wouldn’t back down, or retract the words. How could she? How could she be expected to have this new child, and love it, when her love for Phoebe had brought her to this? When she could barely take care of her remaining daughter, barely look Esme in the eye?
It is too late. In the car afterwards, Tom begs Linda not to shut him out, but the seeds of destruction in their relationship are sown. A new baby won’t bring them back together after this tragedy, despite Tom trying to be strong enough for both of them, it doesn’t work and Linda is withdrawing further from Tom, Esme and the new baby daily.
Part two is set thirty years later (‘9610 days after’), and Bea (Beatrice) takes up the narrative. Bea is, of course, the grown-up baby – and she’s just discovered that she’s pregnant. She hasn’t seen her family in over a year, but knowing that her boyfriend won’t be interested she decides to go home. Neither Esme nor Tom ever talked about Phoebe to her, and Bea, now wants to get to know the sister she never knew and find out how she died. Although she is not close to Esme, her older sister agrees to tell her what happened in her own way, by writing letters to Phoebe for Bea to read.
Gradually, we find out what really happened all those years ago, and there are enough complications to give the story just a slight edge that kept me wondering. The emotional battering that Linda, Tom, and Esme go through is indeed heart-breaking; this portrait of an ordinary family struggling to deal with the loss of a child couldn’t be anything but. Having Bea take on the story thirty years later is a clever move, letting us see both the long-term effects of Phoebe’s death and injecting some positivity as Bea will start a new generation.
In summary, this debut novel was a solid and engaging family drama which I enjoyed reading.
Source: Review copy -thank you.
Laura Pearson, Missing Pieces (Agora, 2018) paperback original, 278 pages.
Buy from Amazon UK below (affiliate link)