This is the first novel I’ve read by Adele Parks having previously assumed that she wrote light women’s fiction I’m afraid I’d never looked beyond the covers, until I saw this, her latest contemporary fiction book. Reading the blurb I couldn’t resist the premise, imagine someone coming along, telling you that the child, the perfect daughter, that you’ve lovingly cared for over the past fifteen years, isn’t your daughter!
I know an unlikely opener but that’s what happened to the fictional Alison when a handsome stranger, Tom Truby knocks on her door one evening. The story he tells is terrifying as it appears that his daughter Olivia, is actually Alison’s, and her beloved Katherine belongs to Tom, a recent widower.
Adele Parks having set off the bomb in her happy and blessed couple Alison and Jeff then reveals how they react to the news. Is Jeff, a writer, able to observe the destruction right at the heart of his family in his normal observant if removed style? What about the naturally more anxious Alison? What about her new daughter, Olivia who has just lost her mother? And yes the questions just keep rolling in and the author make us wait for the answers by weaving a storyline so tight around those affected. I must admit I had my strong suspicions about a key aspect of this plot fairly early on, but there was enough misdirection dripping off the proverbial pen, that I wasn’t entirely sure, which only served to increase my satisfaction to be proved right.
All of the characters, including the teenagers (Tom has three children in all) are realistically portrayed as they cope with an upheaval that would test anyone’s sanity. Given the unusual situation they behave with the range of responses that seem entirely plausible and not anywhere near as outrageous as a less confident author might have been tempted to take them. The tension is however, palpable. How on earth will the families resolve the issues that the accidental swap has posed?
With the action starting in the autumn term the author cleverly marks the time with annual events such an autumnal walks with Tom’s dog and Bonfire Night we see everything unfold through Alison’s eyes in the first person present tense. Can she come to terms with the fact that Katherine is not biologically hers and deal with the fact that Olivia, who is at best stand-offish, reflects so many of her own characteristics. There are also secrets from the past that helpfully muddy the already murky waters.
With all of the elements of secrets, half-truths and lies running through the entire book, this could have easily been quite a depressing read but there were many interjections of wry humour to lighten the read with observational humour, simple but incredibly effective in keeping this reader turning the pages, completely engrossed in all the different elements. This meant that the original self-satisfied Alison became far more appealing, not just because who wouldn’t sympathise with someone in her situation but because she keeps moving forward, overwhelmed and distraught she might be, but she’s also not prepared to lose her daughter without a fight.
This was a gripping read, well-plotted and full of suspense. It is not light women’s fiction but something entirely darker and full of foreboding. In many ways it reminded me of Lisa Jewell’s novels, a story that pulls you in which also makes you laugh at life, making for one very satisfying reading experience.
I was lucky enough to be offered a copy of The Stranger In My Home by Amazon Vine ahead of the paperback publication on 9 February 2017 although it was published in eBook format on 28 September 2016.