Kat Richardson isn’t running away from grief; she’s just hiding out in a gloomy Welsh university town until she’s sure it’s gone. Now, one year, nine months, and 27 days after the climbing death of her first love, Gabe, she thinks she’s ready to venture out into the relationship world again. And Owen—a cake-baking, Super Ball-making chemistry student—appears to be a kind, funny, and very attractive option.
But the arrival of Kat’s newly adopted niece, Mai, forces her home to northern England, where she runs headfirst into all the memories of Gabe she’s tried to leave behind—and discovers that Mai stirs up an unnerving feeling of déjà vu. Before long, Kat’s logical, scientific beliefs about life after death are in battle with what she feels to be true—that reincarnation is real and Gabe has come back to her through Mai. The question now, is why?
Taking on the topics of love, loss, and how we deal with grief, A Strange Companion is a twisted love triangle among the living, the dead, and the reincarnated.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 6 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 7.25 out of 10
Plot: Kat’s relationship with the “strange companion” of grief and her awareness of the absurdity of her hope that her adopted niece might be her reincarnated boyfriend make for a compelling plot that keeps readers turning pages.
Pose: Manterfield invokes a vivid sense of place and gives readers access to her characters' inner lives. Readers see more of the characters’ personalities and surroundings than of their physicality, which works well given Kat's character and circumstances.
Originality: Kat’s slide into self-harming behavior textures what could have been a simple story of mourning and loss.
Character Development: Manterfield succeeds in making Kat likable, but this tested when she finds herself in dark and self-destructive places. Other characters feel a little flat in the shadow of Kat’s emotion, with the exception of the well-drawn and delicately evoked Mai.
Date Submitted: April 27, 2017
Manterfield’s bittersweet debut follows a young woman’s attempt to recover from overwhelming loss. Seventeen-year-old Kat Richardson thought she and her boyfriend, Gabe, would marry and spend their lives together. But those plans are dashed when Gabe dies in a rock climbing accident. Two years later, Kat has been having trouble moving on—until she meets handsome fellow university student Owen, whose playful and earnest personality has started to heal Kat’s broken heart. But their budding relationship is interrupted when she returns home to meet her new niece, Mai, who’s been adopted by her brother and his husband. There, Kat is confronted with the possibility that Gabe has been reincarnated as Mai. Manterfield presents the idea of reincarnation with just the right balance of skepticism and hope as Kat questions both her mind and feelings while acknowledging that “The problem with grief was that it didn’t come with a user manual.” This thoughtful story about learning how to live after loved ones are gone will captivate readers. (BookLife)