cover image The Girl in the Red Coat

The Girl in the Red Coat

Kate Hamer. Melville House (Random, dist.), $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-61219-500-1

British single mother Beth knows her eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, has a tendency to wander%E2%80%94at a local corn maze, on school trips%E2%80%94but one foggy day, the girl vanishes at a local festival and cannot be found. A man who claims to be Carmel's grandfather convinces her that Beth has been in a terrible accident, so Carmel leaves the fairgrounds with him and winds up at a secluded home with the man and his female companion, Dorothy. As Beth frantically searches and slowly isolates herself from the outside world, Carmel is told after careful manipulation that her mother has died, and soon finds herself in America with her new "grandparents," who work as spiritualist healers. Carmel fights to remember her past, but as time passes and she crisscrosses the country, her old life begins to fade. It takes everything in her to remember her name, her address, and her parents. Hamer's spectacular debut skillfully chronicles the nightmare of child abduction. Telling the story in two remarkable voices, with Beth's chapters unfurling in past tense and Carmel's in present tense, the author weaves a page-turning narrative. The trajectories of the novel's two leads%E2%80%94through despair, hope, and redemption%E2%80%94are believable and nuanced, resulting in a morally complex, haunting read. (Feb.)