by Mari Strachan
“Has our family got secrets?”
“Every family has Gwenni. Big secrets, small secrets, silly secrets, bad things we want to hide…”
Young Gwenni Morgan has a gift. She can fly in her sleep. She’s also fond of strawberry whip, detective stories and asking difficult questions. When a neighbor mysteriously vanishes, she resolves to uncover the secrets of his disappearance….And what will be the consequences — for Gwenni, her family and her community — of finding out? (Product Description)
This book starts out slow with not a whole lot happening. It’s definitely one of those reads that sneaks up on you in an amazing way, and you are so grateful to have stuck with it by the time you reach the end. Strachan uses a lot of Welsh idioms and dialect which takes a bit of getting used to. The first half is on the lighter fluffier side as the characters that populate Gwenni’s young life and a small 1950s Welsh town are introduced.
Told in the first-person, Gwenni is a precocious and imaginative child, her narrative voice colorful, innocent and sweet. As the town and her family begin to deteriorate around her, it is painful to watch this young girl try and find meaning in the chaos and make her way through it to the other side. When Gwenni becomes an easy target for a cruel, selfish mother who is possibly suffering from a serious mental break, all I wanted to do was protect Gwenni from the hurts and confusion and whatever it is she’s going to uncover.
This is a book about loss – of innocence, of love, of one’s mind. It is a coming-of-age story beautifully told, wrapped in mystery and shot through with tragedy. I fell in love with Gwenni’s Tada and Nain who cherish her and are there for her in ways that Gwenni’s mother is unable to be – some of it out of pure selfishness, most of it due to a tragedy in her own past that haunts her and has crippled her mind. Rating: ★★★