Marianne's Reviews > The Boy in the Photo

The Boy in the Photo by Nicole Trope
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it was amazing

“…she has lost an affectionate little boy and found a skittish, rigid adolescent in his place.”

The Boy In The Photo is the eighth novel by Australian author, Nicole Trope. It’s hard to imagine. Six years of wondering if she would ever see her son again. When Daniel was almost seven, Megan’s abusive ex-husband collected him from school. Greg had a passport for the boy, and it soon became apparent that he’d fed her a bunch of lies: a false address, a job he’d quit, and a mobile he wasn’t answering. His parents, in England, were hostile, but Megan was convinced that’s where Greg and Daniel had gone.

Detective Michael Kade was so touched by Megan’s plight, he couldn’t let it go. His devotion to the case gradually led to him marrying Megan, and now they had a baby daughter, Evie. But six years on, Daniel suddenly walks out of the bush, into a police station and announces who he is. He says their bush shack near Heddon Greta burnt down with his father perishing inside. And says little else.

When they arrive at Heddon Greta, Megan is anxious: how much of her sweet little boy will be left after he has been fed a diet of his father’s hateful stories? She had eventually realised Greg was a sociopath and had spent too long during the intervening years feeling guilty that she had not prevented this. The reunion with this boy who is essentially a stranger is not quite the joyful event they had hoped for.

Some of what Daniel relates doesn’t tally with the physical evidence, but after the trauma he has obviously suffered, he is reticent and they are reluctant to push him too hard. In the days and weeks that follow, Daniel runs hot and cold: sometimes he allows himself to enjoy Megan’s attention and even shares snippets from the last six years (often to Megan’s alarm). At other times, Daniel almost seems to be channelling Greg and Megan feels helpless: “I don’t know who he is now. I don’t know how to speak to him. He won’t even let me touch him”.

The story is carried by a dual narrative that is split over time: Megan’s perspective gives the reader the day that Daniel was taken, and each successive anniversary of that day, as well as the days and weeks following Daniel’s return; Daniel’s thoughts on his birthdays reveal some of his life with Greg. The heartbreak of those milestone days is expertly illustrated.

The premise that underlies this story has such marvellous potential and Trope explores it to great advantage. Even if the plot is fairly predictable (Daniel’s secret is fairly obvious from the start, as are a few other twists), Trope’s strength is her portrayal of her characters’ emotional trauma, which is so realistic, it’s virtually impossible for the reader not to be moved by her situation and anxious for her to really reconnect with Daniel.

Trope gives Megan some insightful thoughts: “What happens to a child who has had this experience? wonders Megan. How does he grow up and get married or become a father? How does he ever learn to be safe inside his own skin, inside his own thoughts?” There’s an exciting climax (although the gimmicky shock is unnecessary) and a very satisfactory end to this thought-provoking novel.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Bookouture
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Reading Progress

June 8, 2019 – Shelved
June 8, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
June 25, 2019 – Started Reading
June 25, 2019 –
June 26, 2019 –
June 26, 2019 –
June 27, 2019 –
June 27, 2019 –
June 28, 2019 – Finished Reading

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