Trail of Crumbs by Lisa J. Lawrence
Published by: Orca Book Publishers (coming 03.26.2019)
Trigger Warnings: rape, parental neglect
** I received an ARC of Trail of Crumbs from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
After moving into a dank and drafty basement suite in West Edmonton with her truck- driving father, nasty stepmother and taciturn twin brother, Ash, seventeen-year-old Greta doesn’t have high expectations for her last year of high school. When she blacks out at a party and is told the next day that she’s had sex, she thinks things can’t get any worse. She’s wrong.
While Greta deals with the confusion and shame of that night, her stepmother and father choose that moment to disappear, abandoning Ash and Greta to the mercy of their peculiar landlord, Elgin, who lives upstairs. Even as Greta struggles to make sense of what happened to her, she finds herself enjoying her new and very eccentric family, who provide the shelter and support that has long been absent from her life. Much to Greta’s surprise, she realizes there is still kindness in the world–and hope.
Trail of Crumbs ended up being more personal for me than I had expected. There was something about it that filled me with an anxious desire to know what happened and kept me captivated all the way through.
When I first saw that it was loosely based Hansel & Gretel, I expected the story to be dark. What I didn’t expect was how much I would love the characters. Greta and her twin Ash encompassed every violent and bleak emotion I felt during my own time in high school. They took me back to the darker bits of my experience– juggling a course load that never seemed important enough while living with a family that constantly seemed to becoming apart.
For me, the characters were the obvious highlight of the story. Greta who learns to triumph against assault in her own way, Ash whose unwillingness to forgive mirrors my own, and Alice whose strength and independence I admire. I even came to love characters like Priya, who originally seemed aloof, and Nate, who I probably would have avoided in the hallways. I cheered for them in every moment.
While on the topic of characters: major shout-outs to Ash and Priya. In a sea of judgement and shaming, these two characters were beacons of hope. They said the only things that should ever be said to people who have been sexually assaulted:
- “I believe you”
- “An absence of no isn’t a yes.”
I will gladly fight anyone who disagrees. For the people who may have needed to hear that whilst reading this, I’m glad it was in there.
That being said, the book had two issues for me. Firstly, sometimes I couldn’t tell when Lawrence was narrating the present or a flashback. The transitions weren’t very clear to me. I repeatedly had to reread bits when I realised that she had swapped timelines again. A little frustrating, but nothing major. My other issue was that I felt like things within the family were left unresolved. I wanted to know more about what drove Roger’s decisions, or when Patty became so cruel. What Roger had been doing? How did Alice handle Elgin all those years? I wanted more of a resolution for Alice as well.
Ultimately, watching relationships form and watching Greta and Alice find their own sense of family with Elgin and Alice was heartwarming. I love the “family you choose” theme and I feel like more people should write about it.
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