I Know My Name: Cj Cooke
You are all alone and you have no idea where you are or how you arrived at a small Greek island. You washed up ashore and you cannot even speak your own name. The upside is you’re alive the downside you have no idea how to leave the island or why it appears you are shipwrecked. Four strangers found her and nurse her back to health but there is something odd and sinister about them giving readers to wonder just who they are, why are they there on their annual retreat and how do they manage to survive. Every time you meet these four especially George you begin to wonder what their motives are as Eloise begins to get somewhat stronger but the pills she is told to take and the responses she gets from her captives on this island leads you to believe they don’t want her to remember her past or present or leave the island. Questions are left unanswered and you realize that they know whom she is and when that is somewhat revealed things take on a different turn.
Lochlan her husband appears to be beside himself with two small children to care for, having no idea why she disappeared and it becomes apparent that things about their marriage are not what they seem to the public. He is away most of the week and Eloise, gave up her job to care for her children full time.
The author allows her to hear her fears and her frustrations while on the island and at the same time her husbands and her young four-year-old son’s anger at not having his mother. When the police arrive and are investigating her disappearance information comes to light from videos on the cameras that were installed which show both Eloise and her husband at odds at times. Added in the author flashes back to when Eloise was four and her strange relationship with her mother and two others that you can tell add to her fears growing up. The four people that seem to befriend her are definitely suspect as they refuse to allow her to think about leaving the island and things get tense and violent. Eloise learns her real name from something in a journal that someone writes but yet her full memory is still blank. Max you four year old son is angry and afraid and lashes out at his father. Cressida is just three months old and has yet to learn that her mother is gone. George seems to have an erratic personality and at times you wonder what his connection is to her past. Lochlan calls his wife’s maternal grandparents Gerda and Magnus to help care for the children. Gerda seems bent on taking control of the actions and where they live. Gerda and Magnus know things about Eloise’s past that the author reveals in the flashbacks as she realize that her mother was on drugs and someone in her past was abusing her.
Eloise is on this remote island and we wonder whether she will live or die before all is revealed. The four people have different yet highly explosive personalities and although they are on what appears to be a writer’s retreat we wonder what their real reasons are for being there.
Author C.J. Cooke reveals where Eloise has really gone as we learn the truth about her abuse, the mechanism she used to survive and the realities behind whom she really thinks she is or might be. Throughout the novel we hear Lochlan, Gerda and Magnus’s voices relating different feelings and events as Gerda takes charge of the children finding some solace in giving them a touch of security. Lochlan is distraught and when he faces the harsh realities of what is behind what happened to his wife, the startling truth will shock readers. Eloise is supposed to be on the island but is it really her? Is she really there?
Joe, Hazel, Sariah and George are figures that are prominent in this story and who have an equal role in the life of our missing mother. But, Joe is the one who protects her. Sariah is her friend and Hazel seems to be the voice of truth but what about George. The final scenes reveal just who and what these people are as the author explains that Eloise has escaped into many other worlds, places and created different personas in order to deal with the horrors inflicted upon her in the past. Every voice relates his/her own feelings even Eloise recounts her experiences, fears and the willingness to survive, as she creates her own means of defense, protection and learns how to defend her limited sources of freedom. What is real? What is fiction? What is the truth?
How do you live in the present when you cannot unravel the past? When Lochlan meets Tara Goff what is revealed will make readers wonder and ask the following questions: Was there really an island? Was Eloise really a victim of being kept captive? How did she learn to care for her bruises and the abuse she endured? Why did or does she think she’s a bad parent? How does she relate to her children?
As the chief of staff of Children of War and dealing with the administrative duties, saving abused children and answering emails, just that did this? The ending leaves us wondering about Eloise, where she really might wind up and how her life after so many ordeals will unfold. From the Greek Island of Kommeno, to London and back to Potter’s Lane, Twickenham, the scenes change, the voices differ and the outcome will shock you. Just when you think you have heard and read it all learn about a mental illness that might take your breath away and bring tears to your eyes as you realize something about Eloise. This story has no ending but sometimes endings might be beginnings but in the long run will Eloise ever be able to say with certainty: I KNOW MY NAME!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine
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