“The Missing Half” by Brooke Powley
is a powerful literary gem that deals with the tragic issue of child abduction.
At age 2 one of two twins is abducted in Cornwall and for ten years her mother campaigns and fights for publicity and police action to find her missing daughter, never giving up.
The book is written in several narratives, adding multiple dimensions to the search and the story. It would be difficult to give away too much without spoiling the experience of the book.
At the beginning of the book it is mainly the mother, Alice, who writes to her missing daughter and tells her exactly how the tragedy occurs and what happens immediately afterwards.
The account is moving, honest and includes a lot of statistical and basic information on child abduction. We learn about the ordeal and the many psychological aspects of the unique situation.
Later on different narratives bring in more perspectives and add extra dimensions to the story and the book reads like a psychological thriller, although I would say for the majority it reads like great literary fiction.
This book is an excellent but somewhat emotional experience, often very sad and melancholic, so keep the tissues handy, but definitely worth the time. It is thought provoking and an amazing literary debut.
Interview with the author:
Please tell us a little about yourself as a writer and as a person? How did you come to writing? IS this your first book / published work/ written work?
I grew up in the Lake District as the oldest of three children. Reading has always been my passion and as a little girl you would usually find me buried in a book, or spending my pocket money in the local bookshop. I went to university in Nottingham and after graduating in 2008, returned to the Lake District and took some time out of my career to focus on being a full time mum to my then very tiny baby. Some years went by; I returned to work part-time, my daughter started full-time school. Last Christmas, my partner bought me a kindle. One day, I said to him that writing a book to publish on kindle surely couldn’t be that difficult. He raised his eyebrows, and replied ‘I bet you can’t’. ‘The Missing Half’ is the result!
Why did you decide to write about child abduction? How did the idea for the novel come to you?
Missing children is always something you follow, subconsciously, as you grow up. Madeline McCann went missing a couple of months before I spent a summer living in Beijing. At the time I was a young woman of twenty-two with no children of my own. As the BBC is banned in China, thoughts of the missing toddler weren’t more than ‘isn’t it horrible’. After having my daughter child abduction, however rare, became a real possibility. I took Ava on a month long tour of the USA on my own when she was twenty months old and I was all too aware that particularly the blonde haired, blue eyed girls, were a real risk.
I wanted my story to be something that people can relate to. Losing a child is every mother’s worst nightmare. I asked myself, as the UK news have shown more and more children going missing over the years, what you would really do, if that were your child? Alice was the first character that came clearly to my mind. The rest took a lot more planning!
You set your book in a range of places though the main location is Cornwall, can you tell us why?
We actually took our family holidays to Perranporth every summer when I was a child – my parents, younger brother and I. Those who know me will say that I have a razor sharp memory for all things useless! I haven’t been back to Perranporth for fifteen years, but I can remember it so vividly in my mind. It seemed the perfect place to set the novel – a quiet sleepy little village. To make it easier on myself I set the abduction in one of the years I’d been there myself. It’s such a wonderful part of the country. Looking at the images reminded me that I really do need to head back there sometime soon, but unfortunately my razor sharp memory still recollects those awful drives from the Lake District!
Did you need to do much research for the book?
I did a lot of research on government legislation relating to missing children and how it had changed over the years, which took a lot of time and energy. I also focused a lot on the statistics for missing children in the UK and the USA. Some of the facts were chilling, and it was quite heavy going particularly when you realised how lax legislation has been in the past and how easy it would have been to change.
Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?
If anything, I’d say I’m probably most like Richard. Richard is a family man, and family comes first for him before anything else. He is also resilient, hard working, has a good humour and most importantly, isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes is right.
Did you have any say in the cover art and who was that process?
The cover is something I had the idea of right from the start. I wanted it to entice the reader. The cover depicts Grace, on one of the last days she has with her real family looking out to sea in a pale pink cotton dress. The picture is actually one of my own, taken by me of my daughter Ava in California when we were on our grand USA tour. I decided that the rhetorical question on the front would add depth to the title. I had my editor format the picture so it was suitable for kindle and print editions. I have to say, I think the picture makes a great cover, though I’m probably a bit bias!
What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?
The highs: Becoming lost in your world of characters and stories, receiving positive feedback, celebratory cake, the sense of achievement when it’s all over, seeing the book for sale on Amazon and people stopping me in the street to offer congratulations!
The lows: Late nights, the editing process and finding the time to fit it all in around a busy life!
How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?
At the moment, I’m focusing on marketing ‘The Missing Half’ alongside my normal job and everyday life. I haven’t started writing book two, but it’s in the forefront of my mind and I hope to start it in Autumn and have it ready for release in Spring 2014 – so watch this space!
What do you do when you don’t write?
I must admit I have a busy life. Between school runs and a taxi service to various after school clubs, normal ‘work’ three days a week, getting out and about on my mountain bike, keeping my flock of backyard hens in check, running a toddler group, reading and running my website – I’m not entirely sure how I manage to fit in writing!
Which are your favourite books and authors?
J.K. Rowling – The Harry Potter books are my all time favourite. The Time Travellers Wife is another of my top books. I read a lot of Diane Chamberlain, Dorothy Koomson, Jodi Picoult and I mostly read general mainstream fiction. However, I’ve read a fair few Indie authors recently – D.J. Kirkby and Charlotte Castle and also a few debut novels and the standard is very high.
What would you take to an isolated island?
Books – lots of books! Can I take my hens?! We currently have five – all different breeds . Hen’s are great foragers so they’d live happily on an island. If I had fresh eggs and books then life would be good! Of course, it goes without saying I’d take my family, and any other close friends I consider to be handy enough to build us a Swiss Family Robinson kind of tree-house!
What is your next project?
Book Two! It’s as yet unnamed with no concrete plot (really selling it here, I know). But as soon as school is back in full swing, a normal routine is up and running and those cold, dark nights creep it then I’ll be on it!
Britain, Brooke Powley, Child abduction, Cornwall, drama, fiction, interview, review