Amanda Berriman: Home
Published By: Doubleday
Buy It: here
What The Blurb Says:
Jesika is four and a half.
She lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot. She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she shouldn’t draw on the peeling wallpaper or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and baby brother Toby.
She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Paige, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an e-book preview copy of Home in return for an honest review.
What I Say:
From the very first sentence, you know Home is going to be different to any novel you have read before. Our narrator is a four and a half-year old girl called Jesika, and we are seeing the world through her eyes, misunderstandings and innocent narrative. The written language with the spelling mistakes and misheard words, means that this is a unique viewpoint and an intriguing narrator that we are party to.
As I realised that I was reading the thoughts and feelings of a four-year old, I was lulled into a false sense of security that the Home of the title was going to be a warm and friendly place and an Instaperfect existence.
Jesika is making her four-year old way in the world. Her naivety and lack of experience means that she tells us about her day-to-day life in a very matter of fact way, whilst we as grown ups are able to fill in the blanks of her understanding with the knowledge and experience we have gained. We can understand the things that Jesika is unable to comprehend, and it makes it very uncomfortable reading as we gradually realise what Jesika can see happening.
What works so consistently well in Home is how as the reader it makes you remember what it was like to be four years old. How your parents and home life was your world. That they were everything to you, and all you wanted was for them to know how much you love them. Without them you feel rootless. How you love it when you laugh together, and you can make them laugh, but the thing you hate the most is when your parent is shouting and you don’t know why and you would do anything to make it stop.
Home is not by any means an easy read. It brings us face to face with the uncomfortable reality that life in Britain for a young single mother and her family on the breadline is far from idyllic. Jesika, her mother Tina, and her baby brother Toby live in a flat which is full of mold, a boiler that doesn’t work and a landlord who cares nothing for them or the state of the flat he has rented them.
The disrepair of the flat causes Tina and more especially Toby to be constantly unwell, and unable to work, Tina and her two children are living day-to-day, hand to mouth. Her husband has left her to return to his native Poland, and she is alone, navigating life, dealing with an inquisitive four-year old and a young toddler who constantly make demands on her. Tina gets through the grind and stresses of every day purely because she has no choice. She, like so many people in the United Kingdom today is caught in a benefits system which cannot operate outside the parameters of a heavily bureaucratic script. It does not see a young woman who desperately needs help, it sees her as a statistic to be counted and a case to be closed.
For Jesika, her session at preschool is everything. For a brief period of time, she can simply be a four-year old and live in the moment and forget everything else. She is desperate for a friend, and when she meets Paige, she realises that she has finally found someone to play with. Even though Paige blows hot and cold with the friendship, and at times is downright hostile to Jesika, Jesika sees nothing but the good in someone, and longs to make a connection. When it transpires that Paige’s Mum and Uncle are Tina’s former school friends, it seems that Jesika finally has a new world of friendships to explore.
This is where Home starts to lead us into much darker territory. As the events unfold, we are drawn into a story which is extremely harrowing for us as adults to read, but we are also aware that an innocent four year old child is the one going through this. Amanda Berriman’s superb writing means that we are totally consumed by Jesika’s story, and we feel that we have to read this, to be present alongside Jesika to ensure that everything will be okay for her in the end.
A particularly poignant section in the novel for me, is when Tina and Toby are admitted to hospital, and faced with no family to help, Tina has to make the decision for her daughter to be taken into temporary foster care. It was absolutely heartbreaking to read, the sense of powerlessness that Tina felt and the bewilderment that Jesika has as the person she loves the most is choosing tho send her away.
Jesika may be an unusual narrator, but she is also a brave and fearless one, who wants to protect those around her and keep her family intact. Her reluctance to tell Tina what is happening to her and Paige for fear of what could happen to them is heartbreaking to read, as you understand how overwhelming this must be for a four year old to deal with.
Home does not shy away from making us face many difficult issues, but it is also a novel filled with love and a sense of community. For so many of us today, we don’t have our family on our doorstep. Today, more than ever, we understand that family is not necessarily blood relations, but it is often our friends who understand what we are going through and by supporting us with time, love and little gestures, it can make all the difference to how we view the world around us.
I wish this novel could be pushed into the hands of all the professionals who work with families like Tina, Jesika and Toby. Home would help them truly understand what life is like for so many people through no fault of their own.
The resounding message I took from this astounding novel is one we can all relate to. Jesika simply wants to live happily with her Mum and Toby in a place she can truly call Home.
I loved it.