Review: A Place Called Here by Cecelia Ahern

Cecelia Ahern
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Price: Rs. 250 (discounted to Rs. 231 at Flipkart, )
/ $ 15.90 at Amazon
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published in: 2006
Pages: 484

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).

My thoughts
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!  


  1. The theme of the book looks good, but I couldn't digest the science behind the fact that there is a place called 'Here' where all of the things and people turn up when they are lost. That's something not very satisfactory as an answer to what happens to the lost.

    But the review was good and provided with what a reader would need to know. Very well written Ms Ashna.I can't add more words to your infamous flow of writing than I already have, right now.

    God bless you. :)

    P.S: The cover's beautiful. ;)

    1. The point was, there's a place, kind of a parallel world, where all the lost things go when they vanish. When people stumbled upon the place, they couldn't find a way out and eventually they came to know that it's a place for lost things. Since they were very much alive, they made a life in that place, a proper civilization, so they could live 'normally'. Since it's fiction, I don't think any kind of science is needed. Anything can happen. Though I have to say I was disappointed with the ending. That was unsatisfactory. :|

      Thank you so very much for your comment Mr. Usama; they never fail to actually thrill me! :D
      And yes, I got this book because of the cover :P

  2. This is the third book I have read by Cecilia Ahern and I am in awe that such depth, creativity, and mature insight can come from someone so young. It appears to me that several of the previous reviewers have missed much of the point of this book.

    1. I guess you're right... The author's so young and I actually like the topics she picks up (though I've read just two books by her), they're rare and it's something 'unique', something that hasn't been talked about earlier and I think that gives them an edge. And I love the WAY she writes.. It's brilliant! :)
      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it :)

  3. I just love Cecelia Ahern's books. Her concepts are extra-ordinary with an underlying message! I have read all her books! including the short stories :)

    1. Oh that's really nice! I've just read two of her books and have liked them both. I agree on the extra-ordinariness of her books. :)

  4. I like the movie P.s I love you.. i haven't read the book though.. but now i'm reading the book 'a place called here' and so far i'm enjoying it..

  5. Cecelia Ahern is one of my favourite authors and ive read many of her books. They are so unique and each story has an amazing background and they are so different to each other which makes Ahern so special and her writing so special too. I would really recommend reading 'The Marble Collector'. I also enjoy the fact that each of her stories also have such a significant meaning behind them and that they can be utilised through life as a motto or mantra �� i read this book and needed a little help on describing sandy short as a protagonist and finally discovered new adjectives to do so. Thanks for the review!!


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