On the Bookshelf...

Half a World Away

Mike Gayle

Strangers living worlds apart. Strangers with nothing in common. But it wasn’t always that way… Kerry Hayes is single mum, living on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot forget her past. Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a young child, Noah never looks back. When Kerry contacts Noah, the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will change both of their lives forever.

Half a World Away had me humming away to the Royle Family theme tune. Yet the book was nothing like the series. It was the February read for my book group, a book that I wouldn't normally pick up and read. Yet it proved to be an enlightening read. I'd have said pleasurable but then a book with cancer at its soul can never ever be described in that way. Having read many YA books that dealt with the subject, I thought I'd be prepared for the storyline, yet this one threw me a curveball.

Kerry was separated from her brother Noah when he was two. Yet she always loved him and was determined to find him when they got older. Kerry lives on a council estate, with her only son, in an area of London whilst Noah has risen to become a barrister and is married with a daughter. Kerry arranges to meet Noah and the story takes off from there.

It's told in two voices, Kerry and Noah's. Each voice adds its own mix to the story, telling their emotions at the time. The book starts slowly, laying the foundations like any good builder would. When all that's done, we're into the story. Mike Gayle does a wonderful job of just feeding enough more of the story to us when it appears to be faltering. It's written at a decent pace that doesn't leave you a lot of time to dwell. It's a sign of a good writer that they keep you turning the pages on a regular basis wanting to discover more.

There were places I thought the story was a little twee, when I wondered in my head if that could have happened. Yet overall, the story was a decent one. There's a lot of emotion in the book which you share in equal measures. It's a sign of how invested I was in the book that those emotions came through all the way. I'm not sure I'd read another of Mike's books, but I'm glad I read this one. That's the beauty of book groups, you always find something you normally wouldn't read. Four stars.

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Review by
AJ Steel
March 24, 2023

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