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The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney

I remember I came across The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney sometime last year before it was published, and I had to wait months for its release.  Kearney is a British writer, and this is her second novel.  I haven't read the novel that preceded this one, but from what I read of the blurb and the first few pages, both novels deal with similar themes.  Secrets and infidelity (and probably a secret love child thrown in for good measure to make everything extra messy) figure prominently in both novels.  The Day I Lost You is an engrossing read with a side of suspense--as in who's the baby daddy and will the main character bite the bullet and finally get it on with her bff now that they're both single at the same time?

It's been ten weeks since Jess's daughter, Anna, was swallowed by an avalanche in the French Alps while on holiday, and, without a body to bury, every day has been a dark struggle to keep her head above water.  The only thing that's keeping Jess going is raising Anna's daughter, Rose.  But when Rose's father decides to seek physical custody of Rose and take her back home to raise near his parents, Jess's tenuous grip on holding herself together threatens to shatter forever.  Following close on the heels of Anna's cellphone being returned to her family, comes more news: the spring thaw has enabled the recovery of Anna's body.  Both developments, along with a mysterious letter Anna wrote to Theo, Jess's bff and Anna's general practitioner, threaten a cavalcade of revelations of the devastating secrets Anna kept and the lies she told.  When all is (mostly) revealed, the fabric of Anna's family will be irrevocably altered.

Meanwhile, Theo is struggling to come to terms with the end of his marriage; though winding down for some time, it dissolved at the same time that Anna was swallowed by a wall of snow.  His wife, Harriet, has left him and their son, Finn, for her lover (who also happens to be her boss) and to live near her law firm in London.  Theo, too, grieves Anna's death.  But what's in the letter that Anna left him, and why did she leave it for him?

All of Anna's loved ones reel from the grief of her loss as well as the looming loss of physical custody of Rose.  The novel is told in chapters that alternate between Jess's and Theo's points of view.  Interspersed among these chapters are posts from the anonymous blog that Anna wrote about her love affair with Rose's father, a married man whose identity she kept from Jess and Sean, the man she let everyone (including Sean) believe was Rose's father.  Who is the mysterious man Anna loves?  Why did she lie about Rose's father's identity?  What other secrets has she kept?  When Rose's father's identity is revealed, the answers to the former two questions will also be obvious.  Ultimately this is a story about grief and letting go amid the aftermath of the sudden loss of a child and the aftershocks and consequences that child's secrets and life decisions have for the family left behind.

I have some thoughts.

I know Sean is grieving.  But is yanking Rose from the only home she's ever known, all her friends and family, and her primary caretaker in the immediate wake of the loss of her mother really the best decision for that child?  Is that really putting Rose first?  It seems a selfish, poor decision considering that Sean is portrayed as not being involved in day to day care for Rose and as a result doesn't know her very well.  Uprooting a child who has just lost her mother does not seem a very compassionate decision.  And it's even more nerve wracking for the reader who becomes aware of Anna's secrets and lies before other characters do.

I have some words for Anna's paramour which are: you should have known better.  You were the adult--40 YEARS OLD--with a lot more life under your belt than Anna (who was 19 when Rose was born) when you took up with her at a time when you easily could have made different decisions regarding your (then future) wife.  Decisions that would not have ripped a grieving family apart when the truth of them was revealed half a decade later.  Selfish.  Predatory.  Are just two words that come to mind for you, sir.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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