It’s been a while since my little book corner was active, what with cancer getting in the way somewhat. I’m hoping to welcome more guests here now that I’ve accepted my illness, even if it means I can’t offer you as many cakes and I may tire earlier than I used to.
Please forgive the photograph; Rincewind was determined to get in on the act and photobombed everyone I took so I relented and have given him a share of the limelight!
‘Ketchup Clouds’ by Annabelle Pitcher was one of those spur of the moment, library gems for me which I picked up whilst waiting for my turn in the queue to check out my books. I’m glad I did as it gave me food for thought even after I’d finished reading it.
From the back cover: ‘Zoe Collins has a dark and terrible secret that she dares confide in no one. But one day she hears of a criminal on death row who knows all about secrets. And lies. And betrayal. Desperate to confide in someone, Zoe picks up a pen. These are the letters she wrote.’
Firstly, I promise not to spoil this book for you by telling you Zoe’s secret! This isn’t her real name by the way, just a pseudonym she adopted along with a fake address just in case the prisoner she writes to should ever be released from death row and come to find her.
I enjoyed the format of the story unfolding amongst meandering teenage thoughts within Zoe’s letters to Mr Harris, a convict serving his time on death row. Unlike a diary however, we only get to read what Zoe feels comfortable sharing to this distant man while she gradually hints at then reveals bit by bit the source of her guilt, shame and grief as she sheds the secrets weighing her down to the only person she believes can understand.
There were parts of the book where I had to flick back to remind myself how old the character was, as the writing seemed more childlike compared to others, such as those where we see the awakening and exploration of Zoe’s sexuality. Reflecting on that though, perhaps I’m forgetting the turbulent teen rollercoaster of feeling so grown up one minute then wanting to be taken care of the next…
Zoe’s siblings and parents also go through challenges which are divulged in snippets throughout her letters. The times when she writes about her busy family life show the stark difference in the pre- and post-event Zoe, when she has become an anxious, withdrawn wraith-like character within her home.
‘I’ve done something wrong. What I’ve done is awful. And do you want to know the worst thing? I’ve got away with it.’
I was intrigued with Pitcher’s concept of writing to a prisoner and a quick search on the web brought me to a site which would allow me to do just that. I wondered how people selected who to write to so began to filter my search. A search which allows you to learn more about the prisoners’ sentence and offence. I was fascinated by the events which had led to their incarceration but felt acutely like a voyeur, so didn’t linger too long. Killing their spouses, murdering their children, drug-fuelled killing sprees… I admit that I can’t imagine what their lives were and are like.
I also pondered on what would make someone read that a prisoner had shot their fleeing child then tried to drown them after they killed the first and think, “yep, that’s the pen pal for me!” I don’t mean to sound flippant there but I couldn’t honestly put myself in their shoes so I quietly closed the site and returned to finish the novel.
It’s difficult to say too much without spilling the beans but if you enjoy a diary style first person perspective, with a tale that has you suspecting you know what’s happened but aren’t entirely sure how it came to pass, this book is for you. It certainly has me still thinking about guilt and forgiveness.
And now our brief visit must come to an end until I have more energy again but thank you for dropping by; I’ll try not to leave it so long to open the door to my little bookworm hidey-hole again.