Book review: The Park by Gail Schimmel
The Park by Gail Schimmel (first published in 2017 by Pan Macmillan South Africa)
Rebecca is a famous artist and mother to Amy, her beautiful adopted baby.
Being a toddler, Amy has seemingly unlimited energy, and Rebecca decides to let Amy spend that energy at the local park.
Here, she meets mothers Rose and Lilith. The two women form a good support base for Rebecca; companions who share her elation, frustration and everyday issues. While things are on the up personally and financially, Rebecca and her husband Sean begin thinking about adopting a second child.
All the while, Lilith’s young daughter Ruby-Mae bonds with Rebecca’s family. Lilith is a single mum with a hectic life – working hard to make ends meet and keep her daughter happy.
When she asks Rebecca to babysit Ruby-Mae on the odd occasion, Rebecca thinks nothing of it, until Lilith seems to disappear, and Ruby-Mae appears to have been prepared to stay indefinitely. As Rebecca and Sean search for Lilith and adjust to another child, an unwelcome guest from Lilith’s past forces his way into their lives, and may just ruin their happy ending.
Gail Schimmel’s writing is hypnotic; the pages seem to turn themselves.
A narrative which is seemingly ordinary is dissected layer but micro layer, exposing an intricate network of interwoven ideas that mesh together to form the beating heart of an extraordinary story.
The Park is proudly South African literature at its best – complete with issues of racism (surprisingly tastefully dealt with), paranoia, and crime, as well as a lovely amount of hope, art and love. It’s the best of all genres, with a side dish of food for thought.
Schimmel focuses on the terrible effects of jealousy, misunderstanding and secrets through the implement of an extraordinarily ordinary protagonist who is relatable, refreshing and wholesome. It’s a win, all around, frankly.
Read this if you have a few hours to obsessively page through it and ignore everything else in your life, before mourning that the story is over.
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Watch Gail chat about her new book in an interview with Morning Live: