Mary O’Connor has been keeping a virgil for her first love for the past seven years.
Every evening without fail, Mary arrives at Ealing Broadway station and sets herself up among the commuters. In her hands Mary holds a sign which bears the words: ‘Come Home Jim.’
Call her mad, call her a nuisance, call her a drain on sociery – Mary isn’t going anywhere. That is until an unexpected call turns her world on its head. In spite of all her efforts, Mary can no longer find the strength to hold herself together. She must finally face what happened all those years ago, and answer the question – where on earth is Jim?
Thank you firstly to Najma at Century Books for making contact and offering me a proof copy of this book, I enjoyed The Silent Treatment (reviewed here), so it was without hesitation that I accepted.
This is a sad and moving story about, on the surface love and loss, for the story is about Mary told in a then and now format as she meets her great love; Jim an immediate connection causes them both to fall deeply in love and artuculate a never ending love. The ‘then’ part of the story details their meet in 2005 through to Jim’s disappearance in 2011. Early on it is easy to witness this love affair through Mary’s eyes, as a perfect love devoid of any imperfections. But we know Jim has some issues, there are hints from the outset and this is actually a story, yes about loss but about male mental illness, a stigmatising condition often not talked about.
The story, while centering on the relationship between Jim and Mary and Jim’s subsequent disappearance incorporates a cast of characters which subtly touches on the prevalence of men’s mental health, their pressures, expectations and struggles and above all the secrecy surrounding this, making honest conversations difficult.
I found Mary to be an interesting character, her absolute inability to accept and move on from Jim’s disappearance, leading her to function in a sad and empty life was curious. The impact of losses such as these were well explored with Mary and the character of Alice who for me was very much a ‘wounded helper’ seeking to resolve her own issues through helping Mary, whilst also trying to save her own job. But what was key was the abrubtness and unexpectedness of such a loss, leaving in it’s wake confusion, guilt and hope. Essentially this highlighted the improtance of an ‘ending’ to process and enable us to move on.
An engaging and absorbing story which I enjoyed a lot. The author, following the success of The Silent Treatment demonstrates again her skill in sensitively tackling difficult subjects and exploring the human psyche within the context of relationships and loss. A strong piece of fiction highlighting male mental illness and thus spotlighting this issue and hopefully raising awareness and opening channels of communication.
Definitely recommended by me for those looking for a strong character driven novel about love, loss and recovery. A ‘slow burn’ of a read, unfolding as the pages progress.
Thanks as always for reading.
About the Author
Abbie Greaves studied at Cambridge University before working in a literary agency for a number of years. She was inspired to write her first novel, The Silent Treatment, after reading a newspaper article about a boy in Japan who had never seen his parents speak to one another before. Abbie lives in Brighton.