Friday, August 7, 2020

The Borrowed Boy, by Deborah Klée

Sherman House, August 2020

Angie Winkle is in her fifties, tired, and alone. She's got endometrial cancer, and knows she's going to die. The doctors haven't told her that yet, but she's reluctant to go in for the appointment where they'll make it official.

What she wants to do, is do some of the things she's never done.

One of those things is go back to Jaywick Sands, where she spent several summers with her friend, Lorraine, and Lorraine's grandparents, whom she also called Grammy and Gramps, and who made her feel like a part of the Jeffers family.

One thing she didn't plan to do is experience life as a grandmother, though she regrets never having had the experience of being a mother and grandmother. It's obviously too late for that, especially since she may have so little time left.

But life doesn't meekly follow our plans, and Angie finds herself taking responsibility for a little four-year-old boy when he becomes separated from his mother on the tube.
She makes an attempt to get him back to his mother, but it doesn't work out as intended, and, being unwilling to turn him over to the police, she takes him to Jaywick Sands with her.

And when she arrives in Jaywick Sands, she winds up passing herself off as Lorraine Jeffers, largely  because she's sure no one will like or welcome her under her own name.

The little boy, Danek, whom she naturally calls Danny, has welts on his back and seems oddly uninterested in getting back together with the woman Angie assumes to be his mother. He is happy to adopt Angie as his "namma," and the two of them are soon making friends and making a home in Jaywick--even though Angie knows it's all very, very temporary.

Meanwhile, Danek's "mother," Nikoletta, is searching for him frantically, but she's the girlfriend of Kamil Krol, the man who (says he) is Danek's father. Nikoletta had been very reluctant to take Danek, whom Kamil has told her he just got custody of away from Danek's neglectful mother, with her on her her travel from Poland to the UK, where they will be living. Nikoletta is entering the UK for the very first time, has never been to such a large city as London, and has never been responsible for such a young child before. She was very nervous even before the train door closed between her and Danek; the idea of telling Kamil she's lost his precious son is just horrible.

But she has to do it, and is shocked when Kamil decides it's better not to call the police.

What's really going on here?

Angie and Nikoletta each have a lot to learn about themselves, who they can and can't trust, and their own ability to take control of their lives and do the right thing.

Both Angie and Nikoletta find themselves making friends almost against their better judgment, making connections, and finding they're capable of more than they expected--and that people will value them for who they really are.

It's an odd, interesting sort of family story, building toward a warm, satisfying conclusion.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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