If Lizzie closed her eyes, she saw the familiar image of her father leaving for work on a winter morning, so early the sky still sooty dark with a sliver of moon visible, and the feeling that only he was up and about in the world. If she knelt on her bed and lifted the edge of her pink curtain, she could watch him walk towards the paddock, carefully set down his briefcase by the gate, and pick up the mallet from beside the pony’s water trough. He’d lift his arms in a crescent and bring it down to splinter the thick crust of ice, the sound ringing through the frosted silence, the pony stamping and shifting near him, and she’d watch him blow on his hands, brush a few droplets of water from his dark wool coat, and walk back along the path, the gravel crunching beneath his fee, to start up the car engine, throaty in the cold.
She’d get back into bed and pull the duvet up tight around her chin, savouring the thought that the ice scattered on the paddock grass should spell I love you because that was what it meant.
Billy probably had no such certainty. She tried. She felt like she could say, some days with conviction, that she tried.
The adults in nine year old Billy’s life have mostly failed him; his drug addicted mother who cannot move on from the relationship with his father, and his grandparents who are too weary and heart-sore to look after him when his mother dies.
As the clock ticks towards spending his teenage years in care, Miriam Riley is tasked with finding him a new family but the prospective, well-meaning parents come with issues of their own. It is Andrew, the department handyman, who comes to have the most insight into what Billy feels.
A novel about what family means, Choose Me explores what it is to be a child in the social care system.
Langdale’s skill is to woo the reader into empathising with conflicting viewpoints.The Sunday Times