Title: The Missing Pieces of Us
Author: Fleur McDonald
Published: March 29 2017
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary,
Rating: 4 stars
Sometimes you have to resolve the past before you can face the future. The moving and heart-warming new novel from Fleur McDonald.
Lauren Ramsey was adopted at birth. Now a teacher, her mantra is to never let a child fall through the cracks. But she’s so concerned about the welfare of a little boy in her kindy class she doesn’t notice that her teenage daughter needs help.
At fourteen, Skye Ramsey is on the cusp of womanhood, but she’s also teetering on the edge of an abyss. Battling with the usual pressures faced by a teenage girl, including the pitfalls of social media, she’s flirting with outright rebellion.
As a child, Tamara Thompson felt unloved and overlooked. She’s now the manager of a successful business and has a partner who adores her, but her fear of rejection is threatening to overwhelm her.
All three women are searching for a happier future, but the answers may lie in shedding light on secrets from the past.
From the bestselling author of Red Dust and Crimson Dawn, comes a moving and intriguing novel about love, friendship and how the truth can set us free.
I am passionate about Fleur McDonald’s rural novels, I think she has a real knack for creating great Australian stories that combine suspense, crime and romance, all within an authentic country setting. I was excited for Fleur when I saw the first promos for her latest book. The Missing Pieces of Us marks Fleur McDonald first venture in women’s life lit.
The story essentially revolves around three women, who vary in age and are faced with differing issues impacting on their lives. Firstly, teacher Lauren Ramsey faces the battle of her life when she discovers she has melanoma. While trying to cope with her health prognosis, Lauren is simultaneously dealing with a troubled fourteen year old daughter, a search for her biological mother as she is adopted and she is deeply concerned about the welfare of a child in her class. Lauren’s teenage daughter Skye is the second main player in this novel. Skye is a typical teenage girl, trying to break the mould of being the teacher’s daughter. All she wants is for her Mum to notice her but she does it completely the wrong way. In one bad move, Skye succumbs to peer pressure and is caught shoplifting. Shop owner Tamara Thompson takes pity on Skye and offers her a job, as well as a shoulder to cry on. Tamara is our third voice in The Missing Pieces of Us. Tamara has turned her life around since leaving home as a teenager. Once forced to live on the streets, Tamara is now the proud manager of a popular clothes shop. Tamara’s life has not been easy, an unsupportive mother and a critical father forced her to leave home. After years of being estranged from her parents, Tamara’s mother re-enters her life with a shocking revelation. This revelation is the link that draws these three women together.
I was extremely interested to see how Fleur McDonald’s first foray into women’s fiction would pan out. Overall, I found The Missing Pieces of Us a highly readable book, with a great premise. I found the opening intriguing, an unknown narrator tells of events in the past that eventually comes to shape the lives of the characters in the present day. This character and their connection to the three main protagonists in the novel was a bit of an enigma. I thought this section of the book worked well, as it sustained my interest in the unfolding story. The Missing of Us is easy to read but on reflection, the novel is not light in content. This book covers a whole host of fairly heavy issues, from family pressures, a health crisis, forced adoption, childhood illness, peer pressure and the pitfalls of the influence of social media. McDonald handles this generous handful of very real issues affecting Australian woman and their families today with strong insight. Any reader who selects this book, will find the issues contained in this novel have touched them in some way or another.
All three of the characters covered in The Missing Pieces of Us are well formed, McDonald ensures we get a full understanding of their background, as well as what is currently defining their lives. Lauren was the standout character for me, I immediately connected to her, as I share the same profession as her. I sympathised with her quandary of balancing the concern and care of the students in her care, over her own children. Lauren’s own health crisis also pulled at the heartstrings, the discovery of her melanoma is an all too real situation. Her daughter Skye also appealed to me. Skye appeared to be a very authentic construction of the average teenage girl. I could also empathise with her particular issues of peer pressure, her relationship problems with Billy and the frustration she experienced with her Mother. It was hard not feel sorry for Skye and I could easily understand why she behaved in the manner in which she did. The story thread involving the dominance of social media was a very good reflection of what our current generation is facing on a day to day basis – and it’s scary. Tamara, the third character in The Missing Pieces of Us was not as clear cut character wise. Tamara’s past was sad to read and I did feel awful for her. I admired the traits of Tamara’s character, particularly the pull she felt to take Skye under her wing.
In terms of the narrative itself, I believe it holds wide appeal, perhaps due to issues covered. Some parts of the narrative were not easy to read, often drawing an emotional response. Overall, The Missing Pieces of Us was predictable in most areas but McDonald did offer up a couple of turns to the plot, which enhanced my reading of the novel. The final outcome was tied together succinctly, so the reader felt satisfied, as well as happy. My only issue with the book was the coincidence factor. I was not entirely convinced of the likelihood of the bind that eventually brings all three of these characters together. Nevertheless, I appreciated the feel-good factor this storyline evoked.
The familiar West Australian setting, the everyday characters who I was able to see shades of myself in and the real issues the reader is presented with, enabled me to enjoy The Missing Pieces of Us. I look forward to further contributions to the Australian women’s life fiction genre by Fleur McDonald.
*Please note that a free copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes via Bookstr/Allen & Unwin.
The Missing Pieces of Us by Fleur McDonald is to be published in March 2017 by Allen & Unwin, details on how to purchase the book can be found here.