Trigger warning: cancer
Kerry Hayes is a hard-working single mum who lives on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son, Kian, by cleaning houses she could never afford. Kerry was taken into care as a child, and dreams of being reunited with her brother, Jason, who was adopted.
Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a young child by a middle-class white family, Noah never looks back.
When Kerry contacts Noah, who she knew as Jason, she sets in motion a chain of events that will change both of their lives forever.
Ohhhhh this book. I was an emotional wreck after finishing it, and it’s rare that I cry at books! I found the dialogue fairly simple, but I don’t think that was a negative in this case, and the book itself was very easy to read.
The ensemble of characters is absolutely brilliant. Each of them felt so real and I was immediately drawn into their stories, particularly Kerry’s. The story alternates between Kerry and Noah, although I’d have loved a chapter from Kian at the end of the story. There are also letters Kerry has sent to Noah over the years to the adoption agency, even though she’s sure he’ll never read them.
The format of two siblings separated and each having very different upbringings is a storyline that has been done a lot, and I think it’s a testament to Gayle’s writing that he made this book so unique. It is quite predictable at times, and once a certain storyline was brought in I could see where it was going, but that didn’t mean I was any less invested. While the ending was emotional, I actually got really teary when Kerry has left Noah after meeting him for the first time, it felt like such a poignant moment, her doubts and her fears pulled to the surface.
My main criticism of Half A World Away is that the timeline jumped around a little, and some events would be talked about afterwards rather than the reader being present for them, I understand why as a lot of time was covered, but it did mean a few parts felt a little rushed.
Ultimately, it’s a story about families, and the book touches on race, social status, class differences, illness and adoption, all of which I think are handled sensitively. I really like Gayle’s writing style, I think it’s straightforward, easy to read and he manages to create believable, relatable characters.