Blog Tour Book Review

Remember Me by Charity Norman

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 returns to New Zealand to care for her father who has 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.

Are some secrets best left buried?

I adored Charity Norman’s The Secrets of Strangers and I jumped (or enthusiastically hopped given I’ve still got an injured foot!) at the chance to take part in the blog tour for her latest novel, Remember Me.

In it, we meet Emily Kirkland, an artist and illustrator living in London who is called back to New Zealand to look after her father who has Alzheimer’s.  She plans a trip of three weeks, but – shocked by the condition of her father – she ends up staying for a lot longer than planned.  And the small town of Tawanui is much as she remembers it and filled with many familiar faces, older now, if not necessarily wiser. 

As the reader gets to know Emily, they start to understand that she has a rather awkward relationship with her father and siblings, twins Carmen and Eddie.  Growing up, her father, Felix, comes across as having been aloof and unapproachable.  A family GP, he had more time for his patients than he did for his family, and never seemed to notice how his children sought (and fought for) his approval and attention.  It makes Emily’s initial reluctance to return home understandable, particularly when her siblings still live in New Zealand.  Despite the family resentments, Emily comes across as a well-adjusted individual, happy with her life as it is, although burdened by the usual worries that we all face such as how she’s going to pay her next credit card bill.  Emily will learn a lot during her visit and while much of it isn’t good, it’s not all entirely bad, either.

A key element throughout the novel is Felix’s Alzheimer’s.  As a doctor, he spotted the early signs, managing to hide the symptoms for a time, and refusing outright any medication once it was diagnosed, not wanting to prolong the inevitable.  The Felix that Emily returns to is greatly different to the man she last saw three years earlier, although with hindsight she recognises that the signs were there even then, acknowledging that she didn’t want to see what should have been obvious.  Norman’s portrayal of this awful disease is sympathetic but doesn’t gloss over the impact it has both on the individual and those closest to them.  It’s heart-breaking to read, particularly as the reader comes to understand how different he is to the man Emily remembers from her childhood.

Set mostly in the present day, there are a number of chapters which take us back 25 years giving insight into the disappearance of Leah Parata which is still unexplained and which continues to overshadow the town.  It adds a wonderful element of mystery to the novel, and while some aspects of this seem obvious, Norman takes things in a refreshingly original direction that I didn’t expect at all.  It’s really well done – not the initial focus of the novel, but with hints slowly revealed throughout that draw the reader in and make them question what happened 25 years ago and what it means for those in Tawanui today. 

Remember Me is another fantastic novel from Charity Norman which explores family dynamics, past resentment, long buried secrets, and the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s.  It’s a slow burn of a novel which gradually reveals its secrets, keeping the reader hooked as they try to work out the truth behind Leah’s disappearance.  Recommended.

Remember Me is published by Allen & Unwin and is available now in paperback, digital, and audio formats.  Huge thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this novel as part of the blog tour.

Disclaimer – I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has in no way influenced my review.

About the Author

Charity Norman was born in Uganda and brought up in successive draughty vicarages in Yorkshire and Birmingham. After several years’ travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law. In 2002, realising that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. Remember Me is her seventh novel.

Make sure you check out the other bloggers taking part in the tour:


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