Thank you so much to Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!
Synopsis from Goodreads:
“I know my brother is dead. But sometimes Mama gets confused.”
Six-year-old Aoife knows better than to talk to people no one else can see, like her best friend Teddy who her mother says is invisible. He’s not, but Mama says it’s rude anyways. So when Mama starts talking to Aoife’s older brother Theo, Aoife is surprised. And when she stops the car in the middle of an intersection, crying and screaming, Aoife gets a bad feeling–because even if they don’t talk about it, everyone knows Theo died a long time ago. He was murdered.
Eventually, Aoife is taken home by her Uncle Donny who says he’ll stay with her until Mama comes home from the hospital, but Aoife doesn’t buy it. The only way to bring Mama home is to find out what really happened to Theo. Even with Teddy by her side, there’s a lot about the grown-up world that Aoife doesn’t understand, but if Aoife doesn’t help her family, who will? Between Aoife’s vivid imagination and her steadfast goal, All That’s Bright and Gone illuminates the unshakable bond between mothers and daughters in an increasingly unstable world
I spent most of the book thinking ‘oh my gosh, poor Aoife’ (ee-fah)! She was a very brave little girl and I felt so bad for her situation. The book opens with an incident involving Aoife’s mom, then we slowly find out the events and circumstances that led up to that day. Her mother had some sort of psychological melt down, in public, and Aoife was thankfully attended by a stranger who called for help.
We meet Aoife’s uncle Donny as he steps in to take care of her while the mother in the hospital. It is also revealed that there is a brother, Theo, and the plot actually revolves around his disappearance.
I think the book’s language sounded a little advanced, but about right for a six year old narrator. I don’t normally like books narrated by kids but this one really worked. Aoife was a good little detective as she and her neighbor friend found out what happened to her brother. News flash to all the adults out there: kids can understand basic explanations of things! A big part of the plot was built around miscommunications and Aoife’s curiosity over her brother, when no one would talk about him
I also really liked the little paranormal element with Teddy. Was Aoife a normal kid with an imaginary friend, or was she also schizophrenic or schizoaffective? (Was that the family disorder? It fits?). Or was Teddy…something else? The end was so perfect I loved it.
My only question…was Neddy Siobhan’s third kid or was he unrelated? Who was the third kid if not? Why mention it if they’re not in the story? The profile for Siobhan’s father might fit but they probably wouldn’t have lived that close by… Only having one loose end is not bad for a mystery though!
This is a short book. I read it in 3-4 hours and think it’s a great debut novel. Would fully recommend if it sounds up your alley!