While a snow storm rages, Tom sets off from Belfast by car to collect his sick son at Sunderland University. All flights are cancelled and driving is perilous, but Tom doesn’t have a choice, his son needs help. On his journey through the deserted, snow covered landscape, he reflects on some uncomfortable truths about his family and parenting. Travelling in a Strange Land by David Park, one of Ireland’s most prominent contemporary writers, is a tender, atmospheric read which I highly recommend.
At home is Tom’s wife Lorna, their daughter Lilly and a gaping hole left by the absence of their other son Daniel. Daniel’s recklessness and thrill seeking have rocked the very foundation of family life and spiralled Tom into a depression.
I loved the sensitive way Park portrays Tom, a frustrated photographer whose job it is to take photos of happy family occasions. He struggles with self-confidence, tries to keep his family together, strives to be excited by his job but knows deep down he could have done something more challenging. Doubts lurk in the back of his mind. Is Daniel really his son? Is he subconsciously treating him differently? Where did it all go wrong? What could they have done differently as parents?
[…] bringing up a child isn’t like driving this car where I have the voice to guide me and, despite the snow, the tracks of other cars, signals to tell me when to stop and when to go. Instead what you have is a kind of blizzard of conflicting and confusing ideas, where despite thinking you know the best direction to take, it soon becomes obvious that you’ve lost your way…
I found this book incredibly moving. Park’s story tugs at your heart. As any parent will know, raising a child is no easy task. You make mistakes without even realising, and when you do, it often too late to rectify. As Tom has found out, there is no satnav for parenting.
Travelling in a Strange Land by David Park is published by Bloomsbury, 139 pages.