This is a story about family secrets, and of the unending quest for answers to a series of questions for which there is only ever endless speculation. Through the gradual layering of time, we learn the story of what really happened at a quarter past two on a Wednesday afternoon, which left Don and Sandra Taverner without their daughter Rose, and which gave their remaining child, Anna, a burden of sibling guilt, which at times threatens to overwhelm her.
Anna is the main protagonist of the story and it seems that all her adult life she has struggled to understand why her lively and enthusiastic elder sister suddenly and without warning disappeared without trace. We get the impression that Anna, now in her thirties, is always on the outside looking in, and that her personal and private life suffers as a consequence. Don and Sandra now in late middle age, are also undergoing some personal turmoil, and Sandra’s sudden irascible and unusual behaviour seems strangely out of character.
The story switches impeccably between past and present; we get snippets of family life and flashbacks to Anna, Rose, and Sandra’s youth, which when added together make up the bulk of the story. The gradual uncovering of a devastating family drama is done with skill and precision, and such fine attention to detail, that the story becomes quite compelling to read. There is hurt and anger, and all the emotion that exists when a person goes missing, and in the search for answers, it is inevitable that some responsibility lies more heavily with some than with others. And as the story delves deeper, Anna’s character quietly draws you in, and although it took me a while to ‘warm’ to her, I couldn't help but be sympathetic to her; neither could I fail to be moved emotionally by Sandra’s seemingly bewilderment as she struggles to maintain the status quo.
Overall, this is a well written and sympathetically portrayed family drama, which steers the reader though to its ultimate conclusion, with warmth and understanding.
My thanks to NetGalley and Random House, Transworld for my review copy of this book.