Book Review: In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes

In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes is an astonishing novel. I read it in one sitting as I could not tear myself away from the shocking and harrowing tale on the pages.
Jude Williams is practically abandoned when her mother commits suicide. As if struggling to deal with this unexpected loss is not enough, Jude is is then subjected to awful sexual abuse and she is only six years old.
Caroline Smailes does not shy away from the details of these encounters and I was shocked throughout the book. I think that the author is incredibly brave to write with such honesty, it is because society talks about sexual abuse in hushed whispers that it often goes unnoticed. There are so many people in the book, Jude's family, neighbours, teachers, children at school yet you really do feel how lonely and isolated Jude feels. She is carrying around this terrible, terrible burden and shame on her own.
Jude's mother left a suicide note to her daughter explaining that she has gone in search of Adam. It is not until five years later that Jude finally reads her mother's diary and discovers that Adam was the brother that she never knew she had; he was dead before she was even conceived. This element of the story seems to make it even more shocking; Jude's terrible life and experiences all owe something to Adam and the devastation that his death caused. It is as though she is being punished for a death that she didn't even know about.
Caroline Smailes does not stick to the standard format of a book. Words are laid out on the page in a very particular manner, some form shapes; some are bold; many are repeated. This presentation adds so much to the book, they give it a childlike element and do not allow you to forget that the person experiencing these horrific events is merely a young, innocent child.
In Search of Adam is an extremely shocking book and not a nice, easy read. But I believe it is an important book written by an exceptionally brave and honest writer who is not afraid to push the boundaries.


A Bookish Way of Life said...

Wow! That book sounds so good. I mean, it must be disturbing to read those passages that deal with abuse, but those are the types of passages that seem to really grab the reader by the neck and give them a shake to alert them to this problem/situation/issue - which you are so right, we tend to not really discuss so openly. This book sounds like it would be a good way to open up a dialogue about so many issues - suicide, abandonment, sexual abuse. Great review, Dot!

Dot said...

Nadia- Thank you, I think that this book would be a great way to open up dialogue about these difficult issues, the writing is extremely brave.

Ng said...

I've heard so many good things about Caroline's books and here, again, is another fab review. I'm hoping to buy her latest one in May and I can't wait!

Dot said...

Leah- I am definitley going to get a copy of her new one plus I have a copy of her other book, Black Boxes in my TBR pile which I am looking forward to!

Kim said...

I'm not sure I would be able to get through this book as I cannot bear reading graphic details about children in abusive situations, even if they are works of fiction. What an interesting concept, though, being punished by somebody you have never met nor really knew existed before, so sad.
Thanks for a great review, Dot.

Dot said...

Kim- thank you, It was a very hard book to read as many parts were so shocking. I think that Caroline Smailes is brilliant though, her approach was so different but it really worked well.

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