Title: The Stolen Child
Author: Lisa Carey
Published: 10 January 2017
Synopsis: On an island where dreams can come true, be careful what you wish for
St Brigid’s is a remote island off the west coast of Ireland. It is a barren place and its small community is dwindling. But according to rumour it is a magical place, home to a healing well.
Two sisters, Rose and Emer, have resisted the call of the mainland. Rose is beautiful, blessed with love and many children. Emer is unlovely and, worse still, she is cursed – by the strange currents that run through her fingers.
When a dazzling stranger alights on St Brigid’s, she is shunned. She has come in search of a miracle, and the islanders keep their secrets close. But gradually she insinuates her way into the sisters’ lives, and even Emer opens her heart.
Little do they realise that her quest will endanger the lives of all who remain on the island. Passion will endanger everything they hold dear.
The Stolen Child opens almost where it ends, though this finale is still shrouded in a fog of mystery that slowly unravels as the novel proceeds. Twin sisters Rose and Emer have spent their lives on the island, Rose quite happy with her brood of twin girls and husband, Emer longing to get off, and holding her only son, Niall, close to her. The arrival of a stranger brings a series of events and tragedies to the island. Gradually, these events lead to something devastating, and slowly drive wedges between friends and family who were once all close, connected by the island, blood and friendship, and the bonds they share become frayed, by whom though, nobody can agree.
The stranger, Brigid, is at first shunned and gossiped about by the women, her connection to the island and her presence questioned. As time goes on, barriers break down, Brigid’s story is revealed through flashbacks, and she comes close with Emer, and her son Niall, slowly chipping away at the walls Emer has built around her due to fear. Emer though, still holds onto old traditions and superstitions about fairies, “the good people”, and curses, and magic, despite the weekly visits to Mass made by the island. When she is trapped on the island with her brother in law during a dark storm that traverses three days, one event sets the wheels in motion for tragedy. The dangers that they will have to face, and the realities of Brigid and her presence, soon impact the lives of everyone who lives there.
A captivating yet eerie story, with a touch of gothic literary characteristics mixed in with old Irish traditions and a struggle against what is known and the unknown of the modern world, The Stolen Child evokes the fear of loss – loss of love, of family, of friendship and of self. It evokes the creation and breaking down of relationships and has characters that question the conventions and expectations that surround them. The relationships in this novel are mainly between women: there are male characters, though other than Niall, they are secondary to the women, and what they feel for each other. The various relationships between Rose, Emer, Brigid and Rose and Emer’s mother, are the ones that dominate the novel, the ones that give it the power and emotion for the reader. Brigid and Emer’s relationship builds out of distrust into a sort of respect, where Brigid slowly coaxes Emer from her shell, and into friendship, with the possibility of something more.
What I liked most about this novel was that I didn’t know what was coming with each chapter. It allows for the characters to grow and be complex, whilst still allowing the essence of who they all are to shine through. It has a mystery within that requires being read to the final page to be solved, and yet still has an air of wonder once the final page has been turned.
A moving and tender read, where the sea and the island are as much characters as the human characters, the givers and takers of life that these island women live by, It evokes emotion, and weaves a tale that illustrates the realities of prejudice, isolation and fear, and how these can change at the drop of a hat at times.