Ber Carroll explores contemporary issues such as relationship breakdowns, child custody, belonging, identity and abandonment in her latest novel, Once Lost. It’s the first time I’ve read one of Carroll’s books, and I was impressed by her ability to give authentic voice to the everyday conflicts women face in modern life.
Once Lost is a dual narrative that explores the lives of two best friends, Louise and Emma, who are dealing with their past baggage and current burdens thousands of miles apart. The two women, in their twenties, grew up in a grim inner-city suburb of Dublin and have always had each others’ back. But now, with Louise in Sydney working as an art conservator, and Emma stuck in a work rut and facing a potential custody battle, they have to rely on their own strength more than ever.
Louise seizes the opportunity to work in Sydney because she hopes it will lead to finding her mother, who walked out when Louise was just eight years old. Unexpectedly, she finds love – and crucial help – in the form of Dan, an investigative journalist. His family welcomes her and gives her a sense of belonging, which is also a new feeling for Louise. But is it enough to close the hole in her heart left by her mother? Meanwhile Emma hates her job and resents her new colleague Katie, but is more worried about her ex’s claims that he is now drug-free and capable of taking on a more active role with their young daughter. He’s already cost her her reputation and nearly her life, but will he now cost her the daughter she loves so fiercely?
Authentic characters and conflicts make Once Lost an engaging read that promotes an emotional investment in the characters and their lives. I empathised with Emma’s fears for Isla, having experienced similar anxieties myself – but even if I hadn’t, I would be able to relate to the fear of my child not being adequately looked after. I hoped, despite logic telling me otherwise, that there would be a happy (or at least the possibility of it) ending for Louise and her mother. That’s what I want from a book – for it to reel me in and snag my emotions so I can feel the story.
Carroll’s writing style is similarly engaging and I’m looking forward to reading more from her. Once Lost is a warm, credible, quick read that will appeal to lovers of contemporary fiction and those who don’t mind a little reality in their reading.
Available from online bookstores and Dennis Jones & Associates. My copy was courtesy of JAM PR.
Author: Ber Carroll
Publisher: Killard Publishing
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