Thursday, 8 February 2018

Home by Amanda Berriman: Review

Four-year-old Jesika, the narrator of Home, lives with her mummy Tina and little brother, Toby, in a flat which her mother calls, accurately, a “dump”. It’s the only life Jesika knows, though, and she’s mostly happy, even though Mummy gets cross when she touches the black spots on the walls or goes near a discarded needle in the stairwell.

Things change when Jesika makes a new friend, Paige, at her preschool, whose mother Lorna happens to be an old friend of Tina, though they’ve been out of touch for years. But Paige has a big secret, and it’s not a good one. When Jesika’s mummy and Toby are admitted to hospital, life becomes alarmingly more dangerous for Jesika.

Everything is seen through Jesika’s eyes and because she’s only four, she doesn’t understand most of it. As readers, though, we understand all too well and it makes for very difficult reading at times.

Home is an incredible emotional rollercoaster which had me in tears on several occasions , and on one occasion I had to actually put the book aside because I just couldn’t cope with the tensioning . Jesika’s voice is powerfully compelling, loveable and heartbreaking - her vulnerability is terrifying. The end was both tear-jerking and satisfying.

Reading Home, I was initially reminded of Sara Gethin’s (also excellent) Not Thomas, which is also written from the perspective of a young child - Tomos - in very difficult circumstances. But Jesika’s mummy is very different from Tomos’s and as a result, Jesika’s situation is far more hopeful, because we can trust Tina to at least try her hardest to do the right thing. My heart went out to Tina who has endured a lot of adversity and is under tremendous stress, but continues determinedly doing her best for her children and actually does a pretty amazing job, even if she needs to learn to sometimes accept help when it’s offered. 

There are some great supporting characters too - Nandini and Emma from the launderette, Ade from the corner shop, Jesika’s teachers from preschool and more.

A powerful story which will stay in my mind for a long time. I loved it.

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