Love, love me do. You know I love you. I’ll always be true.
1963. The year the Beatles first top the charts. The year Martin Luther King has a dream. The year Truman Bird moves his family from their home in Brighton to a dilapidated caravan in the Ashdown Forest – then disappears.
Truman’s a charmer, a chancer. He is, inevitably, a liar. He’s always got away with it, too. But now he’s gone a dangerous step too far and only has one day to put things right – before he loses everything.
For Truman’s wife, Christie, life has not turned out the way she’d imagined. How has she, that young girl of not that many years ago, ended up like this? In a caravan. With three children. And an absent husband.
In this most unique, wise and addictive of British debuts, we discover that life has a habit of getting in the way of dreams – but that people find their own extraordinary ways of bouncing back.
Lying on the thin mattress of the cramped uncomfortable bed as the early morning light filtered through the skimpy net curtains, lying there listening to a wood pigeon greeting another day, calling over and over in the distance, Christie, of course, knew exactly how long it had been since she had first set her eyes on the caravan. Nonetheless, as she found herself doing each morning now, she counted through the weeks that had passed. Six weeks, she confirmed to herself: as she tried to remember at what point she had truly begun to confront the thought that this was something much more than a holiday. Six weeks: and still she hadn’t found a way to talk to Truman about it, to ask him why they were still there, when they were going home. Six weeks. Six weeks of boiling kettles to wash nappies in a bucket. Of stamping on the wheezing foot pump for cold strip-washes in front of a trickling tap over a sink the size of a saucepan. Of trying to scrub mud and grass stains from clothes that would be stained and muddy again within hours, within minutes. Of juggling pans on a single guttering Calor Gas ring to cook for them all each day. Of skinning her knuckles as she struggled on her knees to put the beds together each night and again as she packed them up every morning. Six weeks of fighting to keep her temper, to keep hold of her sanity, as Megan and Baxter squabbled and whined on those endless days when the rain drummed on the roof and the windows steamed. Six weeks of catching water in a bowl as that rain dripped and ran through the cracked skylight. Six weeks of the baby’s sometimes whimpered, sometimes fierce teething complaints. Six weeks…. And they were still there. In this idiotic caravan. In this hateful forest. Or at least, she and the children were.