What would you do if you were given a window to a life your mother led that you’d never heard of? Could you ignore the scant information if your mother had just died and your father refuses to discuss the past? This is the situation Kali finds herself in as the eldest daughter to Elena she is sent to find her birth certificate by her younger sister, and in Kali’s eyes, her mother’s favourite daughter Alice. The birth certificate is elusive but in amongst her mother’s things she finds reference to a life spent in Canada and postcards from a woman called Susanna Gillespie.
Kali is suffering, the day before she received the phone call to say her mother was dying, she’d realised that her marriage to Doug was over, in a dark place with unresolved issues with her mother that rippled out to include her father and Alice she isn’t ready to return home to face her husband and on a whim travels from London to Vancouver on a search of her ancestors and Susanna Gillespie, a well-known artist. Kali’s visit to Vancouver throws up more questions than it answers and she moves onto the remote Spring Tide Island where she meets up with Susanna who knew her mother in the days when she was researching Orca’s by tracking them and listening to the way they communicate which lends a neat parallel to this story about families and the ties that bind them.
The description of the setting is amazing with beautiful and terrifying of a place where nature rules with storms and the sea giving a menacing background to the encounter with Susannah. The characters are realistic although not particularly likeable at times but understandably so, as the story gets darker and more terrifying. The book would have been more engaging if some of the repetition had been reduced which although I’m sure was written to underline the reluctance of everyone around Kali to give up their secrets just became a little annoying, especially in a book of 569 pages. The descriptions of the orcas, the excitement of finding and researching the pods was extremely well-researched but again could have been condensed especially as Elena’s character also suffered from repetitive thinking, however when the action kicks in you may well find yourself on the edge of your seat like I did.
If you like your mysteries to have a personal element then this book about family secrets certainly has a different, if quite scary, backdrop, which included some fascinating information about the amazing orcas that are designed to live in the sea and not tanks for entertainment. Although quite sad in places on reflection this tale told illustrates the power of a mother’s love for her child as Kali goes to extraordinary lengths to protect her child.