Raul is nothing like the other kids. The ten-year-old boy can see dead people and he knows when those he meets will die. Of course, he cannot be understood by his peers or family and with his love for dresses and his very small body, he frequently becomes the victim of bullying and is called all sorts of names. He himself knows who he is, Cassandra, the ancient goddess who could predict the future but wasn’t believed. So is he. He grows up in his hostile Cuban surroundings and has to train for the military service which will lead him to Angola, a sister state of the Leninist-Communist era of the 1970s. His gift is a burden he cannot share with people, only with the gods he sees and whom accompany him.
Fiction that transgresses the border between fictional reality and fantasy are not necessarily my favourite genre, yet, Cuban born author Marcial Gala cleverly integrates both and thus creates a wonderful protagonist for his novel “Call me Cassandra”. Raul is gifted and cursed at the same time, not necessarily the best combination in a hostile world where he has to prepare for fighting in a war. Fantasy is a way to escape and maybe the only one to endure the world around him.
There are two fascinating aspects about the novel, first of all, Raul’s way of escaping his father’s virile expectations which he knows already as a small boy, he will never be able to fulfil. Thus, he can only find likeminded persons in the women around him, most of all his father’s Russian lover. Literature opens different ways of thinking where Raul can find alternatives to his life that he can only live behind closed doors as boys dressed in women’s clothes are nothing for the Cuban world of the 1970s.
The second, much more horrifying is what the transgender boy has to go through, first at school and later in the army. He is not only bullied but repeatedly the victim of violence and abuse. Yet, nobody seems to care, it seems as if it is ok since Raul does not fulfil the expectations and this does not belong.
Gala elegantly conveys Raul’s different realities and allows a fascinating insight in the boys unique thinking.
When teenager Casey Adams leaves for Los Angeles, she hopes that her job as a nanny with a Hollywood film maker will be the first step in a career. Yet, David is hardly at home and his wife Abby is not only frustrated as she does not get any acting offers anymore but also totally unable to cope with her two kids, 5-year-old Madison and baby Carson. All is left to Casey who herself struggles with the tasks being young and unexperienced with kids. Things develop in the worst imaginable way ending in a family drama. Twenty years later in England, Rachel finds herself accused of the murder of her boy-friend’s wife. All evidence is against her, why did she run when she accidentally stumbled over the body in the woods and not call the police? Rachel has a reason to stay away from murder as she knows how death row feels.
Claire McGowan has created another highly suspenseful and complex psychological thriller. Casey’s and Rachel’s story alternate, it only takes a couple of pages to realise how they are linked and why the two plot lines are connected over such a long time and two quite unalike places. Both murder cases are interesting to follow even though they could hardly be more different and the fact that there is a common ground gives it a little extra of suspense.
It is easy to comprehend Casey’s feeling of exhaustion as she is not really prepared for her job as a nanny. Working for a glamorous family sounded great only on paper, reality hits her hard, but she has a good heart and tries to do what is best for the kids. It takes some time for her to understand the underlying mechanics of the family, that David and Abby’s relationship is going down the plughole and that all she can do is make sure the kids are all right. Until they aren’t anymore. Being accused of multiple murder, nobody wants to believe her, that is the hardest part of the story because you can easily empathise with her despair in telling them about her innocence without being heard. Yet, there are some gaps in her story and the question is looming if she can actually be believed.
Rachel on the other hand, is a lot stronger but nevertheless also a prime suspect whom everybody turns their back to when the police start to question her. She is also alone and tries to prove her innocence. It is obvious that somebody tries to frame her, the big question is just: who would want to do such a thing and why?
A great read that I totally adored. Two wonderful protagonists who are multifaceted in their character traits and a suspenseful plot which brilliantly links the two stories.