At the height of the Cold War a British diplomat dies in a fall from the Embassy building in Bonn, West Germany. His grief stricken widow & children retreat to a small windswept island in the Outer Hebrides to try to come to terms with their loss. His widow, devastated by the authorities conclusion that her husbands death was suicide & the insinuations that betrayal of his country may be at the root of his inexplicable action, closes down emotionally & retreats further and further into the island of her childhood holidays & it's eccentric natives, in doing so she excludes her children & seems totally oblivious of the pain, bewilderment, confusion and guilt they are individually trying to cope with. The eldest daughter carries the guilt of an encounter she witnessed but is uncertain how to interpret but convinced she must keep it secret. The second daughter desperate for her father's love adopts a cruel and vindictive outer shell & engages in both physical and emotional bullying of her younger brother. The 7 year old Jamie is the real hero of the story, mildly special needs he obsessively loves his bullying sister & his literal interpretations of everything he hears about his father's absence is both achingly funny and heart breaking .... "And all Jamie had ever wanted was a picture that made sense. Not good sense, not real sense or even common sense, but Jamie sense." It is impossible not to feel for this totally bewildered small boy & the cruel, inexplicable adult world he finds himself abandoned in.
Meanwhile, a brown bear has escaped from his minder & makes his bid for freedom on the same small Scottish island. Against a backdrop of a vicious Atlantic storm the lives of the family, the bear & cold war politics are intermingled.
An extraordinary and beautifully written story of hope, love, family, friendship & the need we humans have for the healing balm of the natural environment & an element of a Cold War thriller also in the mix.
I loved this book, even if I cried my eyes out over the last chapters, and I highly recommend it.
Save the Earth ..... It's the only planet with chocolate!