Matilda is Missing, by Caroline Overington

a compelling read, offering a story within a story – two different experiences of family breakdown and the impact on those involved, including the children.

Did Frank sometime make mistakes when it came to custody hearings? I’d say he must have done, otherwise we’d all be gathered around his grave saying, ‘Here lies a man who never mucked anything up.’
Did he make a mistake when he was deciding who should get custody of little Minty – Matilda – Hartshorn?
I could answer that, but in the end I think it’s best that people make a judgement for themselves.

Matilda is only two years old, and very much loved by both of her parents. But their love for Matilda is the only thing they have in common. When they met, her mother Softie was a sophisticated career woman with a ticking body-clock. Garry, her father, was a body builder with an assortment of job experiences, but also looking forward to one day being a father. Before either had time to really draw breath, Matilda was on the way and Softie and Garry were married. Now, two years later, the marriage is over and a bitter custody dispute is underway.

Barry hasn’t ever met Garry or Sophie or even heard of them. He’s an ex-journalist, with twelve grandchildren, two of whom he and his wife have been banned from seeing because of a separate custody dispute. So Barry is a little surprised when his friend, Frank, a Family court judge, bequeaths him the records of Garry and Softie’s custody case. Barry doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do with them – but he does become increasingly aware that the custody case often overlooks the most important person – the child.

Matilda is Missing is a compelling read, offering a story within a story – two different experiences of family breakdown and the impact on those involved, including the children. Author Caroline Overington has made use of a background as a journalist reporting on issues including the family court, and this knowledge adds an authenticity, but it is the characters she creates that make the story so accessible. The people who populate the pages are authentic, and theĀ  reader has the chance to make judgements and assumptions, some of which are proven correct, but others which lead to surprises.

There are some uncomfortable moments here, but the decision to use two stories rather than just one, tempers what could have been more shattering.

Matilda is Missing

Matilda is Missing, by Caroline Overington
Bantam, 2011
ISBN 9781742750385

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.