I have read three of Nicole Trope’s previous novels and enjoyed these thriller/dramas. Forgotten is another great one, dealing with motherhood and the loss of babies.
Malia and Ian have three children, five-year-old Aaron, three-year-old Rhiannon and baby Zach. Malia loves being a mum, but Ian is not so keen, and is spending more and more time at the pub on the pokies. Malia is quite isolated having moved away from her family in Melbourne to Sydney. She works part-time at a bakery and Ian is a car-salesman, but they struggle to make ends meet, and Malia knows Ian’s addiction to pokies is a factor, but ‘if Ian was addicted to the pokies, Malia was addicted to Ian’.
After a night at the pub, Ian does not pick up the milk Malia has asked him to get on his way home, so with three children in town, she has to go to the 7-Eleven to get it the next morning. She leaves baby Zach in the car as she runs in with the older two, but when she comes back minutes later, he is gone.
Jackie has been released from prison and is living in a boarding house ‘a place where only the very lost or very alone come to live’. She sees an opportunity to fill the gap that has been left by the loss of her baby girl.
Eighty-year-old Edna also lives in the boarding house and is suspicious of the new residents. She and her late husband Harry had tried to have children but never could, which she still grieves.
Detective Sergeant Ali Greenberg works in the missing person’s unit put in charge of the search for Zach. She is back at work after the birth of her son Charlie, but he is not her first child. Four years later she still feels the loss of her daughter Abbi, who died at five months old, but knows it ‘would be hard to find a member of the force who never came across a case that brought up their own baggage’.
The characters are shown with their flaws and vices. Gambling and pornography are explained by the men who retreat into them, and covered up by the women who have to deal with the effects of them.
The novel deals with all that motherhood brings – the joys, the stress, the tedium, and societies expectations of them, trying to have and do it all, versus those of the fathers who expect to do a day’s work and then come home and rest, when a mother’s work is 24/7.
The reactions of all of the family and those around them are portrayed with authenticity from the hysterical mother, the reluctant father, and the very young siblings. Guilt and blame are common reactions. For Ali ‘surviving grief is a process of forgetting, first for a few minutes, then for a few hours, and then for a few days and so on. At first, those moments of forgetting lead to the terrible truth of remembering, but gradually it gets easier, and when you do remember you can still get through the day without curling into a ball and hoping the world just ends’. But ‘how do you go on if you lose a child – especially if it’s your fault that he is lost?’