YA: How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss

Review published on October 2, 2016.

Hattie’s summer isn’t going to plan. Her two best friends have abandoned her. Reuben has run off to Europe to ‘find himself’ and Kat is in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with the endless drama around her mum’s wedding. She has also discovered that she’s pregnant with Reuben’s baby.

Gloria, Hattie’s great-aunt, who no-one knew existed, comes crashing into her life. Together the two of them set off on a road trip of self-discovery – Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are erased from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.

This book is both sad and funny. It tackles a number of difficult issues including teenage pregnancy and dementia. It is billed as a YA title, which I do not agree with. I think it is a book which would appeal to all ages and I, for one, couldn’t put it down.

The story intertwines between that of Hattie and of Gloria. Gloria slowly reveals a secret she has kept for a long time and the soul-searching she goes through helps Hattie think about her own future. I guessed the secret fairly early on but this didn’t stop me enjoying the book. How the secret comes about is heart wrenching and emotional.

The harshness of life as an unmarried mother in the 1950s was brilliantly described. An added dimension was that Gloria dated a black boy when young and the prejudice she experienced was also upsetting.

This is a story of two women from different ages who come together to share their feelings and, for Gloria, her memories. When lucid Gloria is sharp but she is also being weighed down by her past. A thought provoking paragraph for me was:

Our memories are what make us who we are. Some are real. Some made up. But they are the stories that tell us who we are. Without them we are nobody.

Gloria is at the point where she needs to share her memories so at least another person knows her story. Hattie is the recipient of the memories and rightly so as is revealed.

This book is well-balanced. It is dark in places but the subjects are handled in a sensitive way. I loved this book and would recommend it to individuals and book group. Prepare to be taken on an unforgettable journey!!!

Dorothy Flaxman 5/5

How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss
Simon & Schuster 9781471120312 pbk Jul 2016

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