Forever family ISBN: 9781846162114
Published by Orchard, 2007
Pearl, a mixed race child, is being fostered by a loving and understanding foster mother. But she is desperate to get back to her old life on the canal boat with her artistic mother whom she adores unconditionally. Unfortunately, mum has had a psychotic episode and is in hospital, not expected ever to be able to look after Pearl again. As the story progresses, we learn that Pearl has had to be her mother's carer for some months before the episode, and that alcoholism has come into the equation too. Pearl's foster mum and her social worker have tried to convince her that she should be adopted into a 'forever family', but this would be letting down her adored mum, and she is convinced that all will be right one day. When mum disappears from the hospital, Pearl runs away back to the boat, sure that mum will be waiting for her there. But she is greeted by Amber, a black lady artist who has bought the boat and is living there. At this point one begins to have to suspend disbelief as the possible happy ending becomes apparent, but the realism of an encounter with mum when she is found and returned to hospital - when she again becomes psychotic and attacks everyone, including Pearl - makes up for the somewhat unlikely ending. This is a strong, rivetting story, with truthful feelings and sometimes horrifying descriptions of what mental illness can do to a loving parent.