The Hideaway by Pam Smy

My well read proof copy bears the marks of outstanding passages and quotes to return to with my sticky notes.

With a book like this, I try to write my review immediately to capture the raw emotion and heartfelt awe I feel after finishing. There are a few books that have completely stunned me and rendered me speechless, The Hideaway being the most recent.

Billy is living in a house with domestic abuse and he feels it keenly though his mum seems to take the brunt of the physicality from partner Jeff. Billy adores his mother but has reached breaking point and makes the bold and dangerous decision to run away.

The style of writing from various perspectives highlights the communities in which we live. The neighbours hearing arguments, the disinterested neighbours wanting to be left alone and those who will do anything to help. We meet them all as Grace, Billy’s mum, tackles the hard issues of her missing son and the drastic realisation that she needs help and that she has done a massive disservice to herself and Billy.

Billy’s pillbox hideaway is located within a graveyard and early after his first night, he discovers a few names and dates on the gravestones. His sensitivity is proven as he wonders whether they had good lives, were loved and were missed. His connection to that curiosity is mirrored in the desire to be back with his mum before Jeff, a time when they were happy and more carefree.

Billy meets a wise older man clearing the graves and in return for his silence on Billy’s hideaway, Billy helps him clear the graves and pathways. Hard work and warming meals distract Billy from the aches of loneliness. This man is preparing for a special evening and though Billy is not sure what that entails, he is unprepared for it when it arrives. So to was I…

A series of wordless pages filled with images is the perfect way to explain and see what Billy sees. The joy, happiness and reuniting of loved ones is so special, again mirroring the hope that Billy can soon be reunited with his Mum and see a return to their joy and happiness.

Domestic abuse is so carefully and cautiously dealt with, and the hope it may offer a reader with knowledge or experience is overwhelming. There are other options and there are certainly avenues of help and support. This would be a great book for Y6 and above but with the gentle warning that the story features domestic abuse.

I was moved to tears several times throughout this reading and even now, thumbing back through my sticky notes, I can feel the tears pooling. This is an important and wonderfully interwoven tale. Interwoven through images and words and through the interconnectedness of the characters.

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