Jesika is four and a half.
She lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot. She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she shouldn’t draw on the peeling wallpaper or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and baby brother Toby.
She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Paige, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world.
Home is “a safe place, a place where one lives, especially together as a family, it is meant to be a place of affection, joy and happiness, a valued refuge and resting place, a habitation offering security and protection, where friendships flourish.”
I can only agree, a home is supposed to be all of the above, it’s a happy place which is why it’s probably so heartbreaking when you see that one or more of these conditions are broken. There’s a lot going on in Jesika, Toby and their mum Tina’s life that is simply not OK, and will make your heart go out to them. Their poor housing conditions are just one of the many struggles.
The novel is told through the eyes of a very young child and I was afraid the ‘childish language’ would turn me off eventually, but it did not irk me and even enabled the author to deliver the story in a much more compelling manner. I’m sure an adult could have told a story about poverty but if a child talks about how she wants to draw a pond around the ‘tadpoles’ on the wall, and the realisation hits you that she’s talking about mold, it just comes down on you ten times so hard and that’s what this story is supposed to do. It has to make you ‘feel‘ how hopeless Tina, Jesika’s mum, feels at times, caring for two kids on her own, living in what she herself calls a dump, or any other unpleasant name she gives their appartment, and this was further enhanced by Jesika’s childishly naive observations, as all she knows is not to draw on the wall or come near the window or she’ll be told off.
Jesika was a great little protagonist. Above everything else she doesn’t want to do anything naughty and risk being sent away where she has to live with a new mummy. It made my heart squeeze how she’s trying to make the right choice and do the right thing when push comes to shove about telling on her friend Paige, who sometimes wants to be her friend and other times isn’t really friendly at all.
I don’t want to spoil anything but I do think this novel should come with a trigger warning because it does broach a rather unsettling theme as well. I didn’t cry reading this novel and was thankful I was able to keep at least a bit of a distance from the most disturbing events through the narration from another POV which was not as personal as it could have been. I don’t know how I would have coped at all if Jesika would have been affected even more than she already was.
Home was a very touching tale where the harshness of this families’ situation stems from what isn’t said but is felt through the innocent observations of a four-year old and her eavesdropping from the grown-ups. If you’re looking for a poignant story about one of the harsh realities of today’s society and how difficult it can be to find a way out and make a better life, but also comes with some real heart-warming friendships at the center of the story and where you can root for , then don’t pass up the opportunity to read Home.
I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.