The Girl in the Red Coat is the debut novel by British author, Kate Hamer. Here’s what we thought of it: 

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When her husband left her and took the business they ran together, Beth’s life began revolved around her daughter Carmel. Carmel, an intelligent and unique child, seems to resent her mother for the overbearing nature that has overtaken her since Carmel’s father left. During a storytelling festival, Carmel disappears from her mother and into the arms of a man who claims to be her grandfather, who she has never met.

The result is a spiral into a nightmare situation for both Carmel and Beth. With the police providing nothing but false hope and dead ends, Beth is forced to move on with her day to day life, only hoping that her daughter will return to her. This helplessness is mirrored in Carmel’s own story – unable to get away from the man who has taken her.

If it hasn’t been clear from my past book club choices, I love dual narration. By telling the story through both Beth and Carmel’s perspectives, the mystery is not lost. In fact, the story’s suspense and grief is actually amplified. By knowing what is going on with Carmel, the frustration that Beth is feeling is even further amplified – you know her daughter is out there, that hope isn’t lost, but she simply can’t get to her. This is a good frustration for the reader; it propels you through the story at an alarming rate, reflecting the confusion that Beth feels.

The fact that the book takes place over the course of years is really what makes you feel for both Carmel and Beth. It is thrilling, yes, but also an introspection into how we deal with grief and how we attempt to move on. Hamer wields her words like she is casting a spell, and so easily do you fall into the story, that it doesn’t seem as though you’re ready for it to end. You want to know that the two will be okay, that they’ll be reunited. You become invested in their story, so engrossed in the hope – much like Beth – that the two of them will finally find one another.

Hamer’s words create a mystery that is definitively intriguing, and a genuine pleasure to read. The Girl in the Red Coat is a beautiful study in loss and loneliness, and could bring any reader to the brink of tears. For an emotional journey, pick up this book. You won’t be disappointed.

To pick up your copy, find it here at Amazon. For more book club choices, find them here.

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