British author Morgan McCarthy’s debut novel centers on two children, a brother and sister living in an ancient Welsh country mansion, isolated, neglected by their mother and wondering at the mystery of what happened to their father. As they grow up, they confront generations of family secrets.
Chapter one is available on Barnes & Noble.
Adult/High School–In the vast emptiness of their Welsh ancestral mansion, Jonathan and his younger sister, Theo, share the long days of their childhood as inseparable playmates. They are complementary opposites. Jonathan is slightly older, intelligent, and composed, while Theo’s world is slightly off-kilter, fret with worries, yet illuminated by her generous nature. Their mother, Alicia, is distantly present in the house, gliding through fogs of drugs and alcohol. When their maternal grandmother, a famous and successful woman named Eve, sweeps into their lives, it seems that the children will finally be given care and guidance. Jonathan thrives, effectively compartmentalizing his work self, his party self, and the intimate, impenetrable relationship he shares with his sister. Theo, gentle and unable to understand cruelty or competition, sabotages every job Eve finds for her, spending her days with her “weird friends.” Readers are kept slightly off-balance, poised between Jonathan’s rigid surety and Theo’s alarming intuitions. McCarthy allows but brief glimpses of family secrets; overheard conversation about Jonathan’s dead father, for instance, or newspaper articles that hint at Eve’s scandalous past. Teens will find themselves genuinely caring about the fates of Jonathan and Theo, particularly as they make their separate paths through young adulthood. McCarthy is an enormously talented writer, equally gifted at lyrical phrasing and powerful storytelling. This, her debut novel, is reminiscent of the atmospheric, coming-of-age books by Joyce Carol Oates or Donna Tartt.–Diane Colson, Palm Harbor Library, FL