Book Review: I Know my Name by C.J. Cooke
Eloise Shelley is a young mother and political activist who goes missing from her home in the UK without a trace. Her workaholic husband comes back to the house to find her gone, their four-year-old son and newborn baby girl left behind, along with her purse, cell phone and car. Where is she?
I couldn’t make up my mind whether this book was Noir or not, so I looked up the definition. The online dictionary tells me that Noir is fiction “characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity.” That sounds pretty close to what it’s like to be at home on your own with a newborn and a four-year-old, so I’ll include it in the genre.
I Know my Name is told from both the husband and the missing wife’s perspective. However, our missing mom doesn’t know who she is, marooned on a Greek island with four other people that she thinks she doesn’t know, but may. It is an interesting way to tell the story, as we know right from the beginning where Eloise is, but we don’t know how she got there or why. That is the mystery that must be solved. I would like to say right here, that if I wake up to find myself on an idyllic island in the Mediterranean Sea, I don’t give a damn how I got there, and please do not waste your time looking for me. However, her little group does run out of wine on like the 2nd day, so perhaps this is why Eloise is so desperate to get back to the mainland and find her identity, or at least a good bottle of chianti.
There are definitely shades of Gone Girl here, with the missing wife and the not-so-perfect husband trying to figure out where she is. But for those who found the scheming, morally bankrupt wife of that book difficult to identify with, this novel may be more appealing, as Eloise is none of those things. While I myself didn’t fully identify with the wife in Gone Girl, I had to respect her intellect for devising such a unique and well executed plan to punish her husband. Which I suppose means that I don’t care if you are a sociopath, as long as you are clever about it.
But Eloise is a compassionate humanitarian and devoted mother, not a schemer. She heads up a charity called Children of War that improves the lives of refugee children all over the world. This, despite having a rough start as a youngster herself, or perhaps because of it. Her teenage mother ran away from the stability of her affluent parent’s home in Geneva when Eloise was only four, presumably so she could spend her days sprawled out on the living room floor whacked out on heroin without judgement. I wouldn’t judge myself, except she took her daughter with her. Not until she is twelve, does Eloise get reunited with her grandparents, after her mother’s death by overdose. A sense of guilt abounds, as it does in all families.
So, there is a lot going on here. Good people and bad people. The guilty and the innocent. And perhaps the realization that we are all good with shades of bad that we sometimes cannot control for one reason or another. Whether we are a husband who loses sight of his family by burying himself in work, or a mother with a drug addiction. What I can tell you is that I was kept guessing until the end, and the final explanation for how Eloise ended up on that island in Greece is a highly satisfying one that I did not see coming. This demonstrates that the author is quite clever, which as you know I highly respect, even if you are sociopath, which I am sure C.J. Cooke is not.
But if she can tell me how to wake up on that Greek Island tomorrow, I don’t care if she is. Maybe you would like to come with me. You can bring I Know My Name to read on the beach. I am sure it won’t disappoint.
And I promise, we won’t run out of wine.
You can learn more about this author and her other books here http://carolynjesscooke.com/