Loved, loved, loved this book.

So pleased it was my first novel of 2021, and that I discovered author Mike Gayle through this highly enjoyable tale.

The cover blurb says it best : Same city. Different streets. Same mother. Different lives.

The story of Kerry Hayes and Noah Martineau is the story of fate, the luck of the draw, the role of the dice. Nature vs Nurture. Or is it?

Is one more fortunate raised in a more privileged environment? Or can one surmount the challenges of a less privileged upbringing to construct a meaningful life for oneself, and for the next generation – more mindful of what’s at stake?

Novel cover

“On paper you wouldn’t think it would work, with them coming from such different worlds. But they’re connected through things much more important than what school you went to, or what your mum and dad do for a living, and I don’t doubt for a moment that it’ll be enough to get them both through whatever this life throws at them.”

These questions are never far from the mind of the reader as we delve into the alternating stories of two siblings, separated at a young age when they are forcibly removed from their mother’s care.

Kerry Hayes is a single mum doing her best to raise her young son in a London housing project. Although Kerry struggles to make ends meet financially, she is deteremined to give her son the love and sense of belonging she lacked as a child. She hasn’t given up hope that one day she’ll be reunited with the baby brother she lost when social workers tore apart her family.

Noah Martineau is a successful barrister, living in an elegant London home with a beautiful wife and daughter. Adopted by a well-off and loving family, he was raised with the confidence and encouragement to achieve his objectives. As a criminal barrister, Noah is acutely aware that circumstances and determination are key in life, and he studiously avoids the details of his early life before his adoption.

After a lifetime spent searching for one and a lifetime of avoiding the past for another, Kerry and Noah finally meet. This novel develops beautifully and touches upon themes of class, race, belonging, family, choices and fate.

Chapters are alternated between the first person narration of Kerry and Noah, both with their distinctive voices and perspectives through which they view the world. As a reader, I was fully invested in these characters and loved watching their stories unfold. Highly enjoyable characters, themes and storytelling.

Half a World Away / Kimberly Sullivan