BEFORE THE STORM by DIANE CHAMBERLAIN.
What if your child was accused of mass murder?
When the local church is razed to the ground, dozens of trapped children manage to escape - many helped by fifteen-year-old Andy Lockwood. Born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; Andy is more like a little boy than a teenager, but in the eyes of the people he saved, he's a hero.
Laurel lost her son once through neglect and has spent the rest of her life determined to make up for her mistakes. Yet when suspicion of arson is cast upon Andy, Laurel must ask herself how well she really knows her son - and how far she'll go to protect him.
...... Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Laurel): They took my baby from me when he was only ten hours old.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 467): Sometimes relief feels like a trickle from a faucet. Other times, its a tidal wave.
KEEP IT OR NOT?: A definite keep, I'm adding the sequel, Secrets She Left Behind, to my wish list.
Said by many to be 'the new Jodi Picoult', 'the southern Jodi Picoult', to be honest, I found this book more enjoyable. Now I like Picoult's books (at least I found the two I've read, My Sister's Keeper and Sing You Home, click HERE for my reviews, enjoyable) but it has to be said I found this book much more readable, less emotive, I was able to concentrate more on the novel itself as opposed to sobbing into a tissue or ranting at some character or other to the point I swear I could feel my blood pressure rising.
Like an onion, this book was multi-layered in that just as you peeled away one layer you found another (not all of them expected either). Told by both Andy, his mother (Laurel), his elder sister (Maggie) and his Uncle (Marcus), Before The Storm, as well as dealing with the fire and Andy's possible involvement, also takes a look at several other issues including alcoholism, postnatal/postpartum depression, Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) , as well as what it is to be disabled, to be seen as being different.
Wonderfully well written, despite having some issues with the behaviour of some of the characters, unlike in Picoult's books (grief, did I dislike Sara in My Sister's Keeper), I found myself unable to really dislike any of the characters in this novel, to see any of them as 'the baddy' as it were, instead seeing them as individuals with flaws, as people who, yes, had made mistakes.
Not one of the best stories I have read this year BUT certainly one of the best books I've read this year, I think it was interesting (not too mention brave) that the author chose FASD, a less well known condition, as Andy's disability. Fascinating that she looked at some of the issues of what it is to be a disabled child, of what it is to be seen as being 'normal', of being desperate to fit in a world that is not always accepting.