Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Deep End of the Ocean - Jacquelyn Mitchard

The horror of losing a child is somehow made worse when the case goes unsolved for nearly a decade, reports Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Jacquelyn Mitchard in this searing first novel. In it, 3-year-old Ben Cappadora is kidnapped from a hotel lobby where his mother is checking into her 15th high school reunion. His disappearance tears the family apart and invokes separate experiences of anguish, denial, and self-blame. Marital problems and delinquency in Ben's older brother (in charge of him the day of his kidnapping) ensue. Mitchard depicts the family's friction and torment--along with many gritty realities of family life--with the candour of a journalist and compassion of someone who has seemingly been there. International publishing and film rights sold fast on this one--it's a blockbuster.

I wasn't sure that I'd like this book at first as the characters were very difficult to sympathise with. But as the story progressed I came to realise that what makes the plot so complex is the flawed nature of the characters. I've read another of Mitchard's novels, A Theory of Relativity, and found the characters rather annoying. In this case, their flaws made them fascinating rather than irritating, and eventually this book became impossible to put down. Not having any children myself, it was hard to imagine how I'd act in such a situation but I still really felt the pain that the family was going through in their grief. I did feel like there were a couple of lose ends that weren't completely tied up at the end about the kidnapper, but all in all I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel. Recommended to fans of Jodi Picoult and Barbara Delinsky. 9/10

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