Aussie Book Review: Through the Cracks by Honey Brown

My Rating:              5 / 5
Format:                   ARC courtesy of Penguin Books
Publication Date:    23 April 2014
Category:               Thriller / Suspense
ISBN:                      9781921901546
Publisher:               Penguin Australia
Imprint:                   Michael Joseph
RRP:                      AU$29.99

From the Cover

“A leafy street.  A quiet neighbour.  The darkest of crimes.

Four-year-old Nathan Fisher disappears from the bank of a rocky creek.  Did he drown or was he taken The search for the missing boy grips the nation.

A decade later, young teen Adam Vander has grown tall enough and strong enough to escape his abusive father.  Emerging from behind the locked door of their rambling suburban home, Adam steps into a world he’s been kept isolated from.

In the days that follow, with the charismatic and streetwise Billy as his guide, Adam begins to experience all that he’s missed out on.  As the bond between the boys grows, questions begin to surface.  Who is Adam really?  Was it just luck that Billy found him, or an unsettling kind of fate? And how dangerous is revealing the shocking truth of Adam’s identity?

It's a treacherous climb from the darkness.  For one boy to make it, the other might have to fall through the cracks.”

Summary and Thoughts

“There’s no place in the world for you – a boy like you” - how short-sighted and selfish can anyone be by saying that to another human being, let alone a defenceless child!  In her latest psychological thriller, Through the Cracks, Honey Brown delivers to the reader a taut and gritty tale that holds you in the grips of your emotions as you turn the pages late into the night.

The year is 1984 and we are introduced to Adam.  Illiterate and socially inept, he has been locked in a backroom for most of his life, suffering physical and psychological abuse from a man he’s always known as his father.  When Adam finally realises that he has the strength to stop what is happening to him, he makes a conscious decision to bring an end to his nightmare and escape the bruising hands of an unpredictable tormentor and the confines of his prison.

Adam’s just coming to terms with the gravity of what he has done when Billy appears, seemingly at just the right moment, taking him under his wing.

Billy’s a streetwise kid, with it soon becoming obvious that he has been left to his own devices for most of his life.  With Adam still trying to make sense of this new chaotic world around him, they embark on a somewhat risky adventure in which we are introduced to the secondary characters – some good, some bad – who have in some way shaped Billy’s, and possibly Adam’s, life.  But Billy soon proves to Adam that he is someone that can be trusted and for the first time in his life, Adam has a friend.

As the police slowly close in on the missing person's investigation that has been ongoing for the last ten years, the narrative reaches its climax and the denouement reveals, through both that investigation and Billy’s dialogue, the events of that fateful day along with the part he played in what was to become Adam’s life.

Honey Brown doesn’t write comfortable!  In her four previous novels she challenges her readers to their limits, so why should Through the Cracks be any different?  This time, however, she tackles the difficult subject of child sexual abuse which, while discomfiting for most of us, can only be described as terrifying for the victims.  Without resorting to graphic scenes of the abuse that was perpetrated in the past, she instead delves into her own mind, asking the "what if" questions and using Adam’s thoughts, along with her short, snappy dialogue to skilfully convey those feelings of dejectedness, fear, hopelessness and worthlessness that every victim must feel, thus providing the reader with a deep emotional connection to these two boys and "pushing beyond the barriers" of our comfort zones.

In a guest post over at Monique Mulligan's blog, Writenote Reviews, Honey recently had this to say about the "What If" questions:

“... I believe it’s my job as a writer to push beyond the barriers our hearts and minds sometimes put up, and explore the tougher topics and issues. I make it my business not to baulk at shocking things, or be too quick to judge what is right or wrong, I try not to fall too quickly into outrage, and I steer well clear of pity. Every element of being human is explored in literature and the arts, and childhood trauma and sexual abuse shouldn’t be exempt from that. I’d argue that it’s one of the most important topics to cover, because it is so prevalent. We need stories written about it. We need creative minds delving deep, demystifying sexual abuse and pulling back the cloak of shame.”

Despite the novel being written from Adam’s POV only, Billy too becomes as much a fully realised character through his dialogue as Adam does through his thoughts and, while we all know the statistics on the cycle where the abused can become the abuser, Honey’s deft hand shines a light on the altruism that they both display, towards each other and the various animals that cross their paths, and I found this extremely touching.  

I will be the first to admit that there were scenes throughout that had me moved to tears with the sheer intensity of what they had been exposed to in their short existence – I am a mother after all – but Honey’s compelling writing style sucked me in so much that I just couldn’t see myself abandoning Adam and Billy in their time of need.

Although some may say that the blurb leaves little to the imagination, I am of the opinion that it is just the beginning of a story about two boys searching for their place in this world, one in which the reader can only hope that both will find their way out of the darkness to the light shining through the cracks!

While themes of child exploitation, manipulation and fear vie for attention, the remarkable human endurance, courage and survival that permeates these negatives will resonate long after the final page is turned and I wish to thank Penguin Books for providing me with a hard copy of this perfectly executed psychological thriller.

A Little About the Author

Honey Brown lives in country Victoria with her husband and two children.
Honey Brown
She is the author of four books: Red Queen, The Good Daughter, After the Darkness and Dark Horse.

Red Queen was published to critical acclaim in 2009 and won an Aurealis Award, and The Good Daughter was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and shortlisted for the Barbara  Award in 2011. 

After the Darkness was selected for the Women's Weekly Great Read and for Get Reading 2012's 50 Books You Can't Put Down campaign.

Through the Cracks is her fifth novel.


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