The fashion these days for multi-stranded stories and complex narratives makes this intentionally one-sided and comparatively straightforward novel come across as something quite extraordinary. As indeed it is. Likewise, the trend for novels with big dark secrets buried in the past works slightly differently here; Schroder reveals from the outset what he has been hiding for years.
"It turns out I'm not very good at being silent. There are castles of things I want to tell you." Amity Gaige had me at "castles" and she never loosened her grip once.
Schroder is writing an account of the events that have led him into custody awaiting trial. The account is an explanation to his estranged wife of why he absconded for seven days with their 6-year old daughter, the fiercely intelligent Meadow. This account might also be used in mitigation so just how reliable a narrator this makes him is clearly open to question. In fact, everything about Schroder is open to question - most especially, his identity.
The author's occasional use of footnotes is deft, the narrative structure of the book is perfect and Ms Gaige has a masterful turn-of-phrase: "I was thirty-four - not an old man, but old enough to spy the burnt edges on the scroll of my life." Her description of rain which "grows hard and bitter, as if it is not rain but liquid redistribution of collective conflict". And in a hospital where "the squeegee of officious shoes awakened me". Can't you just hear them?
By the masterstroke of leaving the wife's side of the story untold, Amity Gaige has delivered a wholly brilliant read.