Remember Me by Charity Norman is the second novel I’ve read by the New Zealand author. It’s centred around Emily, a woman in her 40s, who’s returned to NZ to look after her father who has dementia. In the background lurks the mystery of a young woman who disappeared twenty-five years earlier, setting off to hike an area she knew well, but never returning.
This is more intriguing than edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. Leah’s disappearance casts a shadow over their small town and but also over Emily’s relationship with her father as she unearths secrets hidden for over two decades.Remember Me
by Charity Norman
Published by Allen & Unwin
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction
They never found Leah Parata. Not a boot, not a backpack, not a turquoise beanie. After she left me that day, she vanished off the face of the earth.
A close-knit community is ripped apart by disturbing revelations that cast new light on a young woman's disappearance twenty-five years ago.
After years of living overseas, Emily Kirkland returns to New Zealand to care for her father, Felix, who suffers from dementia. As his memory fades and his guard slips, she begins to understand him for the first time - and to glimpse shattering truths about his past. Truths she'd rather were kept buried.
This book is the quintessential slow burn. We meet Emily who’s returned home – under sufferance – to spend a few weeks with her father Felix. A family friend has convinced her his dementia has reached tipping point though she doesn’t believe it until she sees it for herself.
Norman provides some excellent insight into life for those WITH dementia or alzheimers, those caring for them and those around them. At one point Norman has Felix relay how it feels to have dementia – to have things slip away from you. To be conscious of something one minute but not the next. To skip time. To not be fully (or at all) present in your own life.
She does an excellent job as my father had dementia and I now have (and have had) several friends whose parents are similarly afflicted.
It’s a struggle for Emily as she’s never felt close to her father and always thought him disinterested in her life and that of her twin siblings. His usual demeanour is compromised as a result of the dementia however and she learns things about him she never knew. About his own family – reasons, perhaps, for his emotional distance.
Worse still she learns that he seems to be harbouring secrets about Leah. She was a patient and Leah’s parents (now just her mother) a close friend, so his sadness over her disappearance and lack of closure makes sense, but it’s obvious he’s engulfed with guilt as well. Emily’s nervous about digging too deeply, unable to believe that her once-distant father, now fragile older man, could have been involved in some way.
In addition to the plight of those with dementia, Norman delves into the challenges of Huntington’s Disease here as well and again on its impact those suffering from the disease and the impact it has on their loved ones and families.
I bumped my rating of this up because of the ending. I loved it. We’re led to expect it, but not as it pans out. It’s deftly poignant but compelling and weighty at the same time.
Remember Me by Charity Norman was published by Allen and Unwin and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.