Random House AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
For Aisha and Ryan, it was love at first sight after a chance meeting when Aisha was leaving a university party. Ryan was older, already well into his first job and Aisha was still finishing her bachelor’s degree. Despite the fact that they always knew that they wanted different things, they settled into a strong relationship and eventually married. Ryan had never wanted children but he wanted Aisha and soon they welcomed their son Eli.
It wasn’t long before they realised that Eli’s needs were a little different to those of most other children. He needed routine and order and the smallest deviation from this could bring about extreme difficulty. All of sudden Aisha’s world revolves around Eli and Ryan is left feeling overwhelmed and on the outer. The stress builds, fracturing Ryan and Aisha’s once strong relationship until Ryan can’t take it anymore.
Then Aisha receives a phone call late at night whilst at her father’s house. She takes off to meet a friend, assuring her father and sister she’ll be back soon. But morning comes and Aisha hasn’t returned…nor does she all that day. The police are called and when they find Aisha’s car abandoned with blood on the seat, everyone begins to fear the worst. Ryan has disappeared. Aisha is missing, possibly injured or worse. Aisha’s family don’t believe she’s voluntarily run off, even to chase Ryan. She’d never leave her son. But the alternatives may be too hard to contemplate.
Missing You is Australian author Kylie Kaden’s second novel and delivers an intriguing mystery as well as exploring family dynamics, the difficulties in parenting a special needs child and how quickly things can change when you go from childless to being responsible for someone 24/7. With a brief snippet to open the book, readers are aware that something has happened to Aisha…but what? Where is she? The book alternates between the point of view of Aisha’s father Patrick in the present, who is left to care for Eli when Ryan and Aisha both vanish and glimpses into Ryan and Aisha’s relationship, marriage and the arrival of Eli.
To be honest, for me where this book truly shines is the narration by Patrick as he slowly puzzles out his grandson. Patrick hasn’t spent a lot of time with Eli before – visits probably, he certainly doesn’t seem to have had him overnight or for a few days. Eli is a bit high maintenance – the smallest thing can make him extremely upset and given Aisha has taken off unexpectedly she obviously hasn’t left Patrick with many instructions. Aisha’s sister is a small help but mostly it’s up to Patrick to figure out precisely what upsets Eli and how to fix it. Patrick is from a different time, where parenting was done differently and this does show in his early narration as he watches Eli melt down inexplicably with a tantrum. But he quickly comes to realise that there are reasons for his behaviour and the more he watches, the more he learns. Patrick muddles through the days and nights with Eli, building a relationship with him. The poor boy has had both his parents disappear in a short time and being autistic quite possibly doesn’t have the ways to express how off kilter this must make him feel. All his safety and security has vanished and Patrick has to establish some new safety and security for Eli – he has to be that for him. Watching Patrick care for Eli in his own way, gently encouraging him to try new things and push his boundaries but as well as keeping things at a level Eli can cope with, was a fantastic part of this book.
I think I found myself less interested in the story of Ryan and Aisha over time. There was a lot of secrets and half truths and I don’t know, I felt like the ‘villain’, for want of a better term, was broadcasting red flag signals loud and clear but Aisha either could not or would not see it. The ending disappointed me a bit – more secrets, more half truths and I really expected more fallout. The information given didn’t really seem to satisfy me in terms of what I really wanted to know, what I think I would want to know in that situation. It was really quite offhand, not befitting of the seriousness of the situation for me. I didn’t really understand the motivation and I felt as though there were many more issues that would probably need to be worked through. I couldn’t get a very clear picture of the future. It just didn’t satisfy me at all after the whole book spent its entire time building up to it. I was far more interested in Patrick and the relationship he was forging with his grandson and the progress he was making in helping Eli adjust to so many different things. Patrick was a total gem.
This was a good story and it did keep me intrigued, just not sure the ending worked for me.
Book #76 of 2015
Missing You is the 30th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015