Hamilton East Public Library logo

My Account

Hours & Location

Get A Library Card

April 17, 2017

The Girl in the Red Coat

The Girl in the Red Coat

By: Kate Hamer

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare: a child wanders off in a busy crowd and can’t be found. In The Girl in the Red Coat, Beth treats her daughter, Carmel, to a trip to a storytelling festival, but newly-single and wounded Beth holds her daughter too tight. Carmel, eight years old, dreamy, independent, and naïve bristles at her mother’s clinginess, and wanders off.

Shortly thereafter, a kindly-looking stranger tells Carmel that her mother was badly injured, and he is her estranged grandfather who will take care of her while her mother recovers. For five years Carmel remains in thrall of the grandfatherly iterant preacher who believes Carmel has divine healing powers, and they travel the United States putting on theatrical healing services. His efforts to remake Carmel and use her as atonement for a mysterious guilt are at odds with Carmel’s independence and her determination to remember who she is.

Meanwhile in England, Beth reconnects with her estranged loved ones – her parents, her ex-husband, and his new wife – and realizes she must remake her own life while never forgetting the Carmel-shaped hole in it. We also see the struggles grieving parents must endure: the false leads, the continuous hope and disappointment, and the emotional toll.

Told in alternating chapters in the voices of Beth and Carmel, the book allows us to see what both Beth and Carmel do and feel and just how much they miss each other, building to a reunion that while unsatisfyingly brief, is still very happy. While there is a fear that things could go very wrong for Carmel, she remains physically safe under Gramps’s care, even though he attempts to reshape her identity.

Review By:  Julia Welzen