Book Review: The Missing Pieces of Us by Fleur McDonald

The Missing Pieces of Us…

Book Description:

Sometimes you have to resolve the past before you can face the future. The moving and heart-warming new novel from Fleur McDonald.

Lauren Ramsey was adopted at birth. Now a teacher, her mantra is to never let a child fall through the cracks. But she’s so concerned about the welfare of a little boy in her kindy class she doesn’t notice that her teenage daughter needs help.

At fourteen, Skye Ramsey is on the cusp of womanhood, but she’s also teetering on the edge of an abyss. Battling with the usual pressures faced by a teenage girl, including the pitfalls of social media, she’s flirting with outright rebellion.

As a child, Tamara Thompson felt unloved and overlooked. She’s now the manager of a successful business and has a partner who adores her, but her fear of rejection is threatening to overwhelm her.

All three women are searching for a happier future, but the answers may lie in shedding light on secrets from the past.

From the bestselling author of Red Dust and Crimson Dawn, comes a moving and intriguing novel about love, friendship and how the truth can set us free.

 

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My Thoughts:

The Missing Pieces of Us, by Fleur McDonald, was not a novel that I warmed to instantly. The opening diary scene certainly drew me in, but from the moment I entered the novel properly, I struggled to really get into it. This was largely due to the main characters, none of which I actually liked. Tamara and Lauren, our two main female leads, both seemed to instinctively act in a way that made them hard to relate to.

Tamara receives a shock early on in the story, and her reaction is to simply not go home. She leaves her boyfriend hanging, sleeps in her car and visits a homeless shelter so she can get ready for work. This struck me as bizarre, and while Tamara’s story unfolds pretty rapidly and certainly provides eventual clarity on her moodiness and inconsistency, I still found these initial actions difficult to reconcile. Over the course of the novel though, I came to like her and looked forward to seeing her character grow and find happiness.

Lauren is a character I never warmed to, not even by the end. Her obsession, and I label it as such because it stretched far beyond professional interest, with a little boy in her class was hard to get past. At one stage, she’d been in hospital having surgery, and in the car on the way home, she thinks of this boy. Not of her own children, but of a student. Rather than making her appear compassionate to the reader, it had an effect of presenting her as unbalanced, focused solely on her job and her own associated feelings. She was full of endless excuses right the way through the novel, but her parenting was frustrating to read. Countless examples of simple things: allowing Skye to lock her bedroom door; a password on Skye’s phone that her parents didn’t know so they could never check up on her; the way Lauren tiptoed around Skye, trying not to upset her and wanting always to be her friend; and the excuses, once Lauren was sick, that Skye’s bad behavior was a result of her worry over her mother. Skye was badly behaved before that, but this fact seemed to go amiss somewhere throughout the story. Lauren’s reactions to Tamara, and her resistance to liking her, just further fuelled my dislike.

Skye was perhaps the most authentic character within the novel. Alarmingly naive and painfully egotistical, she was your fairly typical privileged teenager, getting everything she wanted while still maintaining she was hard done by. I liked her character progression throughout the novel, despite how irritating she was at times, and how much I wished she would just wake up to herself.

The narration within this novel was hard to follow at times. Fleur has a habit of rarely writing in the moment, instead, we’ll get a character reflecting back constantly, sometimes to the past, other times to earlier that afternoon, and it becomes confusing when these recollections go for pages and pages before finally returning to where you were initially with the character, standing in the shower or looking out a window. There were a couple of times when I feel the way back to the present scene was actually lost, specifically when Skye takes that regretful photo of herself in the school bathroom. This was a bathroom scene within a bathroom scene and I completely lost track of which scene we were in when she took the photo. It shouldn’t be that hard to read a novel. Just write in the moment, reflect on the past only occasionally. Unfortunately, this style of narration persisted for the entire novel.

I enjoyed the second half of the book far more than the first. The historical information about adoptions within Australia was fascinating, somewhat heartbreaking to dwell on. The diary entries scattered throughout did a great job at giving the reader a sense of individual history. While there were no great surprises, and the resolution was entirely predictable, I felt that Fleur did a great job of bringing those ‘missing pieces’ all together for a satisfactory finish.

While not the best book I’ve ever read, it’s a still a fairly decent read, perhaps a good bookclub pick as there is much offered up for discussion.

Thanks to Allen and Unwin for providing me with a copy of this novel for review.

AWW2017-badge
The Missing Pieces of Us is book 21 in my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.