Title: The Cry
Author: Helen Fitzgerald
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Read: September 18-20, 2013
He's gone. And telling the truth won't bring him back...
When a baby goes missing on a lonely roadside in Australia, it sets off a police investigation that will become a media sensation and dinner-table talk across the world.
Lies, rumours and guilt snowball, causing the parents, Joanna and Alistair, to slowly turn against each other.
Finally Joanna starts thinking the unthinkable: could the truth be even more terrible than she suspected? And what will it take to make things right?
The Cry is a dark psychological thriller with a gripping moral dilemma at its heart and characters who will keep you guessing on every page.
The Cry is the first book I have read by Australian author Helen Fitzgerald, and I immediately took to her writing style, her vivid sense of place and the dynamic and emotionally laden dialogue driving the story. This book is very much about human relationships and the dark places of the soul, the things people are driven to when their backs are up against the wall.
Who has ever spent twelve hours on a plane with a screaming baby? A baby who will not settle despite trying everything in your power to calm him down – facing the ever-increasing frustration and hostility of your fellow passengers. I know the feeling well, I have been there! It was therefore easy to feel Joanna’s despair as she desperately tries to settle her nine-week old baby Noah, who is doing his best to scream on top of his lungs the entire way from Glasgow to Australia. Getting increasingly desperate, Joanna blames herself – surely it must be her fault that her child won’t settle. Perhaps she is a bad mother, fundamentally flawed in some way, or being punished for having a relationship with Noah’s father Alistair whilst he was still married his ex-wife, the mother of his teenage daughter Chloe. She is a home-wrecker, a scarlet woman, a bad mother, a flawed person – accusations driven home by her baby’s disconsolate screams, and the disapproval on the other passengers’ faces.
Fast-forward a bit and baby Noah is missing, reportedly abducted from his parents’ car in rural Australia whilst they quickly ducked into a store to buy some nappies. The media screens desperate pleas by Noah’s father to please return his son, whilst the mother, Joanna, looks dazed and stony, as if all of these events were happening to someone else. Exploring Noah’s disappearance and subsequent happenings through the eyes of Joanna, Alistair’s ex-wife Alexandra and their daughter Chloe, The Cry becomes an emotional roller-coaster ride of people trying to deal with every parents’ worst nightmare – that of losing your child.
It is hard to really delve into the details of this novel without giving anything away, so I will keep it brief. Since the author reveals very early on what happens to baby Noah, the main agenda of the novel is not a mystery, but rather the way humans react to trauma and the dynamics of interpersonal relationships. All main characters – Alistair, Joanna and Alexandra – are fundamentally flawed in some way, their dysfunctional relationships driving their decisions. As an observer, I felt these emotions very intensely myself, watching in horror as events slowly, inexorably spiral out of control. And when you think that things cannot get any worse, they do – with a twist at the end which throws everything you have read before into a horrible new light.
The Cry is a brilliantly executed novel. By throwing the characters head-first into a horrible-beyond-words situation, it quickly manages to suck the reader into an emotional whirlpool which leaves its marks long after the final page has been turned. Highly recommended!