Author: Cecelia Ahern
Price: Rs. 250 (discounted to Rs. 231 at Flipkart, )
/ $ 15.90 at Amazon
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published in: 2006
A Place Called Here is one unique book. I’ve only ever read The Book of Tomorrow (read review), apart from this one, by Ahern and I think the author specializes in writing about and exploring in depth, the littlest things possible! That’s what makes the plots and stories stand out: Something that we haven’t read about quite a lot. Like in A Place Called Here, the theme is ‘lost things’. Ever wondered where the lost things go? It’s so true! We all have experienced the agony of trying to find that missing sock from our favourite pair! What about the pen we kept here just a few minutes ago? What about all the people who mysteriously go missing without a trace! There’s a difference in things being misplaced and things being missing. We can find out the misplaced things by searching for them, but missing things cannot be found.
Sandy Shortt had been intrigued by the mystery of Jenny May Butler gone missing when both were ten. Even though Jenny May had been bullying her since forever, Sandy can’t quite stay satisfied until she knew where in the world she was! That’s when her obsession with lost things began. She demanded a house-search whenever any one of her things went missing, which frustrated her parents (who tried not to show it) and made her see a counsellor when she turned fourteen. The counsellor-turned-friend came as someone who would listen to her questions and kept in touch with her till later years. Now Sandy is in her thirties and not being satisfied with her job with the Gardai, she runs her own missing persons agency. She’s been in touch with the families of those gone missing, trying to find them, supporting them throughout. More than helping families unite, she wants to just know where they are; that knowing would be enough to help her get satisfaction from her life’s work.
Jack Ruttle’s brother, Donal has been missing for over a year. Everyone in the family seems to have got over it, but he looks up Sandy’s agency and fixes a meeting. They had been talking over the phone and he was somehow sure that she would be able to find his brother. But she doesn’t show up. That morning while jogging in another city, Sandy finds an unused path in the woods and takes it. That’s when she went missing. After two days of running around in the forest, she finds out a group of people camping, now in their fifties. However, she recognizes them as a group who went missing on their school trip many many years ago! One of them, Helena, advises her to keep her identity a secret and tells her that she’s finally found the place where the lost things go! They take her to their ‘town’, with a board naming the place as ‘Here’. Many people who had gone missing, tired from trying to find a way out, have developed villages and did work to pass their time. Many have married, had children, sent them to school and tried to live as normal a life as possible. That’s why Helena asked Sandy not to let others know that she knew things about their family.
Anyway, Sandy’s still intrigued, living in ‘Here’, finding out her long lost and missing things. But she isn’t just like others. Her watch first goes missing from Here, which became an issue of great unrest! Where would the things from Here go? Helena’s husband seems to know her power and knows she’s a ‘messenger’. Soon enough, when Sandy had a heart-warming meeting with Jenny May (read the book to know how!), she stumbles out of Here and finds herself back to her city, in the normal mortal world, after two weeks. She’s completed her quest, she’s no longer uneasy and fiddling, she knows where her things and the missing people have gone. She’s finally free to go back and love her family. (And oh! Donal isn’t found. Again, I won't spill the beans on that mystery).
Different! The story is unlike any I have ever read. I loved the ‘lost things’ angle, the first person account of the many instances that Sandy felt intrigued about, the descriptions of people, their behaviour and expressions, the yearning for the truth about a mysterious fact! Wonderful and characteristic portrayal of the desperation one goes through in the quest to find out the missing things, multiplied by a hundred! I loved the sound, look and feel of the place called ‘Here’, the resignation that people took to, when their efforts to find a way out turned futile. The descriptions were fantastic, the basic story interesting and the author succeeded in getting readers hooked into the story.
However, if the readers aren’t able to read it in one go (as in, without many days in between), it can become a bit confusing; mainly because the chapters go back and forth, from one perspective to another. One chapter on Sandy’s remembrances as a kid, one chapter on the present scene, the next one dealing with Jack Ruttle and his attempts to find Donal and well, Sandy. That’s where it can be a bit wearing, plus 484 pages! That’s a long read! I was also a little disappointed with the ending; if Sandy finally found the place and came back just knowing they’re all okay, who would actually believe her? Why wasn’t there a way to get those people back? If Sandy goes to their families rattling about how she found out their loved ones, telling them they’re doing fine, but not being able to help them get out! Anyway, that was the way it was meant to be. It began with Sandy’s obsession with lost things and ended with the answer. Full stop.
The plus point though, was the many quotable quotes the book had! My favourites are:
‘Sometimes, people can go missing right before our very eyes. Sometimes, people discover you, even though they’ve been looking at you the entire time. Sometimes, we lose sight of ourselves when we’re not paying enough attention.’
‘We all get lost once in a while, sometimes by choice, sometimes due to forces beyond our control. When we learn what it is our soul needs to learn, the path presents itself. Sometimes we see the way out but wander further and deeper despite ourselves; sometimes we prefer to be lost and wandering, sometimes we find our way out. But regardless, always, we are found.’
My rating: 3.5/5
Recommended for: Teens, Young Adult, Adults, Fantasy lovers and those who don’t mind a very long book!