We All Begin as Strangers by Harriet Cummings

Review published on May 20, 2017.

This book had great appeal for me as soon as I heard about it. Based around a true story of somebody who, in 1984, crept into people’s homes and observed them and sometimes kept a little souvenir of their visit, I loved the premise of a community dealing with such an unusual situation.

I don’t know why but I thought Anna, the person who goes missing during the fox’s reign of terror, was going to be a child, so I was a bit surprised when she turned out to be a fully grown woman. The community comes together to an extent as they deal with the events of the hot summer, but there is a sense of mistrust as it could easily be any one of them.

The main characters are Deloris, Jim, Stan and Brian really. I liked Deloris. As the book starts she is watching Dallas and it took me right back to the era. She mentions having a video recorder and I remember clearly us getting our first one. There’s a real sense of time, place and atmosphere in this book.

Actually, I liked Jim, Stan and Brian too. All have flaws, but all are essentially good people. I did find it very hard to put ages on the characters, somehow expecting them all to be older than they eventually seemed to be. I don’t know if I was missing something or whether the author intended to be quite mysterious about certain facts.

With the fox at large, the book had a sinister undertone, which freaked me out a bit reading with just a night light at bedtime. I kept hearing noises and in my mind it was the fox him or herself. It definitely had an impact on me!

As with lots of books based around true stories I think the author was constrained a little by trying to weave real life events into the story, but overall it worked well. It’s been billed as similar to The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, Elizabeth is Missing and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and I think that’s accurate, although We All Begin as Strangers has a darker feel to it.

This is an intriguing and well-constructed story of a small village community who don’t know each other as well as they think they do. We do all indeed begin as strangers.

Nicola Smith 4/4

We All Begin as Strangers by Harriet Cummings
Orion 9781409169048 hbk Apr 2017

dir95 pbk?

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