Review Blog

Mar 01 2016

How not to disappear by Clare Furniss

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Simon and Schuster, 2016. ISBN 9781471120305
(Age: 16+) Recommended for mature readers. Themes: Unplanned pregnancy; Regret; Decisions; Family; Relationships; Memory and Memory loss. Memories and our past - how important are they? Do they define us? To Hattie and her Great Aunt Gloria they are what connect them. Surprisingly they are connected in ways beyond their familial link. Hattie is a young teen dealing with the normal stresses of life and family. She is dependable and caring and she has just found out she is pregnant. Her turmoil occurs at the same time as an unknown elderly relative appears in her life. Gloria was fiercely non-conformist in her youth (a trait she retains in her senior years) and never had anything to do with her extended family, but now connects with Hattie at a time when her memory is becoming unreliable and her sense of self is disappearing. The unusual cross-generational Thelma and Louise road trip that they take to rediscover Gloria's past is also a time of discovery for Hattie and the important decisions she must make about her future . . . and the future of her relationships with the father of her unborn child and everyone else in her life.
This is a compelling story - an adult tale of dementia and unplanned pregnancy written for a younger audience. It is confronting and the dilemmas facing both Hattie and Gloria are filled with uncertainty. Clare Furniss, the author of The Year of the Rat, writes powerfully about internal struggle and the fears and conflict that accompany some major decisions. Abortion, unplanned pregnancy across the generations, adoption, regret and its consequences are addressed in the different voices of the disparate generations. Gloria's story as she seeks to remember and be remembered is extremely moving and gives Hattie and the reader a powerful insight into changed relationships and the struggles and decisions that accompany an unplanned pregnancy, and the struggle to retain your identity when your past and memory disappears.
Written through the voices of the young Hattie; Gloria, as she remembers her life from the past, and at the present time with her failing hold on memory; and also with excerpts from text and email exchanges. This variety adds to the appeal of the book. The setting within beautiful English countryside has a minor role in influencing the story, but will appeal to Anglophile readers. Minor characters are also well developed and interesting, secondary to the essence of the book, but important to understanding the two main characters.
Recommended for mature readers aged 16+.
Carolyn Hull

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