Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Charity Norman was born in Uganda but spent her early years in Yorkshire and Birmingham. She has set this story in New Zealand where she moved her own family in search of a more inclusive family lifestyle. This sentiment finds a place in the book, Remember Me, as it highlights family dynamics and how being dedicated to a profession can often leave little time for family interaction.
Felix Kirkland was a family doctor who relocated his family from England to New Zealand with family members responding differently to the shift. He was always on call for his patients, so family often felt neglected. The storyline visits this family over twenty-five years later when the family members have all gone their own ways.
Apart from family dynamics, the story addresses two degenerative diseases and the fears they raise in family members. Felix knows he is becoming a victim to Alzheimer’s disease and his youngest daughter, Emily, has returned home, temporarily, to help. She is one of the sandwich generations ‘squashed between parents and children’ (9). Her siblings have their own reasons for not offering to return to the area where they grew up. Their closest neighbour had already passed away from Huntington’s disease after his family had watched him gradually decline leaving the fear that this might be their own fate in years to come. The author’s treatment of both these diseases is sensitive and enlightening and shows the coping mechanisms that an educated doctor would put in place to help remain as independent as possible in the situation.
When Emily returns to be with her father, it is not just his deterioration that she has to confront. The media want to revisit the disappearance of Leah Parata, the well-educated daughter of their neighbour who had disappeared without trace many years ago when Emily was still living there. As Emily spends time with her father, she begins to discover more about this man who seemed so distant during her earlier years. This unfolding understanding also brings with it a fear as in his unclear moments his actions and words suggest that he may have been involved in something that he has been covering up for many years.
As this mystery is revealed, readers are positioned to confront their own value beliefs and consider what they might have done if they found themselves in a similar situation.
The title, Remember Me, was apt. But who is it referring to? Is it the missing girl who disappeared without trace twenty-five years ago in the beautiful wild landscape of New Zealand or does it refer to Felix, the man who puts in place strategies to ensure he does not forget? The reader is left with more than an interesting story.
This tale is beautifully written but at the same time it is very confronting. I enjoyed reading Remember Me by Charity Norman and would have no hesitation in recommending it to others.
by Charity Norman
Allen & Unwin