Please note: this book was provided for me to read and review by Library Thing's Early Reviewer programme. You can rest assured however, that this is (as always) an honest review!
We first meet Melody as a 16-year-old, being dragged to an appointment by her exasperated foster carer. Clearly she has been through some terrible trauma, as she does not speak and is seeing a psychiatrist to try to bring her out of her shell. The only way she can communicate is through music. Melody's story gradually unfolds between the present and various times in her past, beginning as a happy 5-year-old spending time with her loving parents. Where are her parents now, and what are the terrible events that led to her silence?
Melody's story is a harrowing one. There are themes that some would find distressing, including myself. Often content notices are also spoilers, so I've added them in white text (highlight to read):
[snakes, animal cruelty, sexual assault, rape, physical violence, bullying]
To be honest, it's not the kind of book I would normally read. I prefer fiction with lighter themes. The author has added an end note explaining why she chose to write about such themes, and I understand that it's important that these voices are heard. Putting my squeamishness aside, Gardner has woven a compelling tale that kept me reading. I sympathised with Melody and wanted to know her story, and of course, if she finally finds a place she can call home. The way that Melody's emotions and thoughts are expressed through song lyrics was evocative, and not something I've seen before. Both Melody and the supporting characters are well-rounded and diverse. The only reservation I have is that about two-thirds of the way into the book, several new characters are introduced, in both the present and the past, and I had trouble keeping track of who was who and when. I gradually overcame this, though, as the past and present were knitted together harmoniously.
Would I read more by this author?
(for the subject matter) Maybe! (for the writing style) Yes!