Alison believes that her life is pretty much perfect. She left work to become a stay at home mum when her daughter, Katherine, was born, and has never regretted it. Her partner, Jeff, is a successful writer, and they enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in which they don’t have excessive wealth, but nor do they have to worry about money too much. And at 15, Katherine is more perfect than Alison could have hoped for – smart, beautiful and friendly, she is the perfect daughter.
Alison’s world is turned upside down when a handsome stranger delivers some devastating news – Katherine isn’t her daughter. A mix up in the hospital means that she has raised another woman’s child as her own. And if that weren’t bad enough, Katherine may have inherited the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene from her biological mother, meaning that she has a significantly increased risk of developing cancer.
Initially tempted to ignore “the swap”, Alison gradually realises that she may have no choice in letting Katherine get to know her biological family. And she needs to reach out to her own biological daughter.
The Stranger in my Home starts off really well, but I did find it a little tedious after the initial shock of “Katherine isn’t your daughter”. As you’d expect, there are a lot of tears, tantrums, recriminations and awkwardness as everyone involved tries to adjust to the news, and I felt that this went on for quite some time. The pace does speed up later in the novel, however, and it’s worth persevering with if you’re finding it a little slow going at the outset. However, there is a wonderful twist in the novel that I didn’t see coming, and from that point on this became a surprisingly fast-paced and exciting read.
I think that one aspect that made it a little tedious was Alison. A constant worrier, she is the ultimate pushy parent, and whilst the reader gets an insight into her background that explains her behaviour, I personally found her to be too over-bearing. That said, I thought that Parks created a very believable character, and her reaction to the news was entirely plausible – to say that she doesn’t take it well would be something of an understatement. And as the story progressed, I did warm to her – particularly for latter part of the novel.
I went into this novel with a mix of anticipation and trepidation – I think that it’s an exciting and original idea, but my main concern was how such a mix up could occur. Whilst this is addressed in the novel, the explanation wasn’t entirely satisfying, and some readers may find this a little off-putting. Personally, I think it’s worth overlooking, as this is ultimately a very enjoyable read.
The Stranger in my Home is available now as an eBook, and will be published in paperback on 12 January 2017. Many thanks to Georgina Moore for the review copy.