Title: Haven’t They Grown
Author: Sophie Hannah
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: January 2020
Source: Amazon (I bought it)
Number of pages: 336
All Beth has to do is drive her son to his Under-14s away match, watch him play, and bring him home.
Just because she knows that her former best friend lives near the football ground, that doesn’t mean she has to drive past her house and try to catch a glimpse of her. Why would Beth do that, and risk dredging up painful memories? She hasn’t seen Flora Braid for twelve years.
But she can’t resist. She parks outside Flora’s house and watches from across the road as Flora and her children, Thomas and Emily, step out of the car. Except…
There’s something terribly wrong.
Flora looks the same, only older – just as Beth would have expected. It’s the children that are the problem. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily Braid were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then. They are still five and three. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt – Beth hears Flora call them by their names – but they haven’t changed at all.
They are no taller, no older.
Why haven’t they grown?
The first thing that came to my mind when I caught the title of Sophie Hannah’s novel was this image of old people pinching your cheeks when you’re a teen and chanting “Oh, haven’t they grown?” I had to smile. When I actually read the blurb, I was completely puzzled and thirsty for answers!
Who wouldn’t give in to the temptation and go check their former best friend’s place given the perfect opportunity? It’s not as if driving your kid to their game is exciting… Is it? I’m not a mom, so I’m only assuming! I know I would have made the detour. Beth thought the same, and she did it…
Then happens the FREAKY moment. Beth witnessing Flora, someone she hasn’t seen in twelve years, with her kids, in front of their house. What’s freaky in this, I hear you ask. The kids look the same. The same as they did twelve years ago.
I knew it was coming, I had not gone into the book totally blind, but the author managed to floor me by taking this perfectly normal day and turn it into an impossible thing, while anchoring it so much into reality that my brain couldn’t cope. Just like the main character’s brain. Poor Beth! But I knew I was hooked right there, right then. I am very down-to-earth, not too much of a sci-fi or weird theories fan, so I just couldn’t leave it at that. How could children not have grown up in twelve years? HOW? I basically had the question flashing in my mind throughout my reading. I love it when I am offered a puzzle with missing pieces scattered all over the place.
Beth… Mom, wife, reasonably sane woman… is she? Because I’d witnessed the ‘incident’ with her, I could not NOT trust her, but… But I only had her eyes and thoughts to rely my assumptions on. We all know how good unreliable characters are, and how they turn us into fools.
Would have I been able to go back to my life without answers? I don’t know. Wait, probably not, because I’m nosy! So I understood Beth’s reasons for not letting it go. The more you think about it, the less it makes sense, right??? That’s why I was on Beth’s side at first and understood why her husband was indulging her wife’s obsession. Because it clearly became an obsession!
The far-fetched answer option didn’t stay long in my mind as Sophie Hannah had other plans, and soon, Beth began playing detective, uncovering the weirdest things and letting slip snippets of information about her relationship with Flora and her husband. Tiny bits of mystery started piling up and they buried Beth. That’s the best way I have to explain what happens in this book. Like a junkie, Beth digs deeper and deeper to get her fix (in this case, answers) and I must say that everything was wrought so perfectly that I doubted Beth, every other character, and myself! I LOVED being forced to second-guess what I read or what I felt, and how I felt it. Sometimes your feelings are wrong. Sometimes your gut is right. Sometimes the reality is worse than any extra-terrestrial explanation…
Sophie Hannah has written a book that will make your brain cell dance a jig and doubt engulf you until the very end! A more-than-gripping novel!
Grab your copy on Amazon!