Review: 'Ghost Child' by Caroline Overington (2014)
The photograph shows four smiling children. But look closer and you can tell that one of the boys has been crying.
Weeks later, that little boy is dead. His mother and her boyfriend are in prison for his murder, and his brother and sisters have been fostered to separate families.
No one knows for sure what happened that day, except, possibly, the three remaining children, and they’re not talking.
But the past cannot be buried forever, and years later, when the truth about what happened is revealed, will it bring a final healing? Or will the legacy of fear that the children have lived with for so long, finally destroy them?
Caroline Overington's latest novel, 'Ghost Child', was released on the 11th of September 2014 by Arrow. I was quite excited when I found a review copy of the book in my mailbox, because I had the chance to be introduced to Caroline Overington's writing last year when I was asked to read and review 'I Came to Say Goodbye' (click here to read my review). The novel was a really fascinating read and one that made quite an impression, and I looked forward to checking out more of her books. Both the cover and the blurb of 'Ghost Child' don't give too much away about the story inside, so I was curious to discover more about it!
In 1982, 5-year-old Jacob Cashman is sent to the store together with his younger brother Harley to buy cigarettes for his mother. What happened after that is unclear, but as soon as the emergency services arrive at the Cashman residence a few hours later, Jacob is dead. His mother says Jacob and his brother were attacked by strangers on their way back home, but eventually Jacob's mother and her boyfriend are the ones who end up in prison. For the remaining three Cashman children, Harley, 6-year-old Lauren and 18-month-old Hayley this means the start of a life filled with foster parents and far-away family. Twenty years later, Lauren, who is a nurse's aide, is part of another court case. As soon as people realise she's a Cashman, her past comes back to haunt her and it might be time for the truth to finally be revealed...
One of the absolute strengths of Caroline Overington's work is the thin line between fiction and non-fiction. Her stories are based on real-life events, but she gives these her own twist and manages to create a realistic and truly captivating collection of different points of view, recounting the same event, in this case the death of 5-year-old Jacob Cashman. The four Cashman children are described as pale with white hair; a slightly haunting description that makes the story even more powerful. I personally really enjoyed reading all the different voices from characters such as a social worker, a foster mother, a reporter and a police officer, but also the Cashman family. One downside to this way of writing is that as a reader you don't develop a particular liking for or bond with a certain main character, but I have to say this didn't really bother me while reading this book.
The author's writing is really easy to read, well-paced and convincing; from the first chapter I was already intrigued by the story and this feeling only increased as I continued, until the very end. It's obvious Caroline Overington did her research before writing this book, since lots of different topics are dealt with such as foster families and child abuse. Fans of drama and/or based-on-real-life novels will definitely not regret picking up Caroline Overington's work, with 'Ghost Child' also being a novel great for book clubs because of it's conversational plot and many different topics to discuss with other readers. Overall, 'Ghost Child' is an engaging, confronting and powerful read; another Caroline Overington novel that left an impression!