‘The Atlas Of Us’ is Tracy Buchanan’s first book.
Louise Fenton flies to a devastated Thailand to search for her mother, missing following the Boxing Day tsunami. The only trace she can find is her mother’s distinctive bag. Inside it is a beautifully crafted atlas belonging to a writer named Claire Shreve. But what is the connection between Claire and Louise’s missing mum, and can the atlas help Louise find her? As Louise explores the notes and mementoes slipped between the pages of the atlas she learns the story of a life-changing revelation, a tragedy and a passionate love affair. And she uncovers a secret that nearly destroyed Claire and the man she loved – the same secret her mother has been guarding all these years.
‘The Atlas Of Us’ is Tracy Buchanan’s debut novel and is one of the most powerful and memorable books I have read this year.
The story has quite an impactful beginning, starting right at the point when the Boxing Day tsunami hit Thailand in 2004. I remember that day, enjoying the relaxation of Christmas, the excitement of new books and treats and as the horror unfolded on the news in front of me, everything seemed insignificant as people lost their families, their homes and their lives.
Having not spoken to her mother for a number of years, Louise finds herself in Thailand trying to find her mother. Stressed and scared at what she will find amongst the carnage, she finds support from her old neighbour who is now living in Thailand. Together, Louise and Sam, find themselves on a remarkable journey as they search for Louise’s mother through the debris, when they find a woman clutching her mothers bag with an atlas inside and with the aid of the mysterious atlas, they unravel some secrets.
The story then flashes back over the years, to a young travel journalist called Claire who has literally travelled in her fathers footsteps and discovered the world. Heartbroken at the thought of not being to conceive, her marriage is in tatters. Whilst reviewing a new hotel in Exmoor, she meets Milo, a reclusive and handsome farmer that she has a connection with, an understanding and a yearning to discover more of life. But just as they get close tragedy strikes and Claire finds herself back with her husband Ben trying to make their marriage work but Milo is still in her thoughts and as much as she tries, finds herself back with Milo and travelling the globe just like the couple imagined. As a token of his love, Milo gives Claire an atlas and she stores tokens of their adventure together. But things aren’t simple and bad luck seems to follow them on their travels.
Using the atlas, Louise and Sam piece together how Claire had come into her mothers life and what lead them to that fateful day.
For a first novel, I thought it was vividly written conjuring up strong images of the tsunami of the fear and the horror aswell. Tracy is a travel writer and this was also very apparent in her writing, describing paths less well travelled as well as sumptuous foods, the book was like a holiday itself without having to leave the comfort of your bed.
The characters are all quite complex and all ones that you can feel a strong empathy for. Louise has lived a life not getting on with her mother and hopes that finding her alive will give them a second chance at the friendship whereas Claire has always craved to be a mother and feels without being able to carry a baby makes her less of a woman but Milo is there to reassure of herself, but he has troubles of his own, with the curse of the “James family” he finds himself the centre of family drama and conflict.
I truly loved this book and envied Tracy for writing such a compelling debut, cleverly interlinking fiction with non-fiction, she writes a passionate love story with an intriguing twist that makes the book impossible to put down. I thought her characters were relatable with their strong urge to find their loved ones as well as try to find their happy ever afters.
A roller coaster from the very beginning, ‘The Atlas Of Us’ is a haunting story about new beginnings and second chances and a honest story of how sometimes even the strongest of love can go wrong. A highly recommended read!
You can buy The Atlas of Us from Amazon