Number of pages: 261
This book opens with the main character, Michael, entering his neighbours' house to find a screwdriver that he lent him. The house appears to be empty, but he thinks there is an intruder upstairs, so he goes to investigate.
The book then goes into an extended flashback, setting out Michael's background as a writer and telling of how his wife died (we find out she was killed by mistake while out in Pakistan on business, as part of a military operation).
The book also tells of how Michael met his new neighbours, Josh and Samantha, and their two daughters, with most of the chapters being told in flashback occasionally flashing forward to the present. A few of the chapters are from the point of view of the solider responsible for Joesph's wife being killed, though his presence doesn't have much impact on other aspects of the plot.
All I knew when I started reading this book was that a shocking event was going to occur halfway through, and that did happen - spoiler ahead.
[Spoiler (click to open)]
It turns out that Michael is not alone in the house; Josh and Samantha's youngest daughter, Lucy is there, recovering from illness. Josh, it transpires, had snuck out of the house to see a woman he has been having an affair with. So, Michael is suddenly confronted with Lucy discovering him in the house; in her surprise at seeing him, Lucy falls down the stairs, and dies. Michael flees the house and later lies to the police, and tries to avoid telling Josh and Samantha about his presence in the house.
The story is a good study on personal loss and grief, and also the guilt experienced by various characters. I had to get used to how it jumped back and forth in the timeline a lot, but it was well-written and proved to be quite a simple narrative, fleshed out by talking about its characters feelings a lot. I liked the way that every character was given a very detailed background.
My only complaint would be that the ending felt a little rushed and abrupt, but I found myself caring a lot for all the characters, even though some of their actions did prove to be a little shocking.
Next book: The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)