As I had predicted, Rachel’s life collapses when Emma dies.
She can’t bear the thought of seeing the people Emma loved or see the places that her dear daughter frequented. So she decides to leave and travels to Santorini, where her mother is from. Rachel’s mother has always refused to return to the island as her sister died in the earthquake in 1956. After that, her parents moved to Athens and then England, and she swore never to return.
Rachel finds a place to rent and for the first weeks she becomes a recluse. She only befriends the receptionist at the hotel, Eleni, who finds a place for Rachel to rent. Oliver eventually comes to find her, but Rachel refuses to talk and in her short conversation she simply says she can’t do what he expects. He leaves, promising to wait for her as much as necessary.
As time goes by, Rachel starts coming out of her shell. She makes friend with another expat, Ingrid, who is Australian. They become good friends, but Rachel doesn’t tell her about her daughter for a couple of years. The two women decide at some point to set up a shop and sell original old photographs of the island, which they manage to do eventually.
Rachel won’t contact her friends Jen and Meriel. Yet, a card that their girls send her makes her realise that she will always worry about her daughter’s best friends. So she does something quite peculiar. She hires a private detective, Palmer, and the man will send her reports every month, and he even comes to see her once a year. The arrangement is for him to keep watch on the girls for eleven years. I find this quite strange.
I know that losing a child is terrible, but I can’t understand why Rachel has stopped all contact with those who love her. She still gets letters from Oliver; it still goes on even after several years, and she writes back to him, but she won’t see him. When she goes to see her mother for Christmas, she refuses to see him. Her mother doesn’t really understand why she is like this, and neither do I. Meriel also writes to her, but Rachel has never tried to write back. It is difficult to pass judgement here because only those who lose a child can, but in her grief Rachel is also quite selfish. Not only have Oliver, her mother, and her friends lose Emma, they have also lose Rachel. I think she could cope with seeing her friends if she wanted. After all, during that visit to her mother she ran into Toby, Meriel’s husband, and they talked, and Rachel didn’t break down. Couldn’t she do the same with her friends?
I am enjoying the book, but I find some parts a bit dull, for example, all that about setting up the shop. I am intrigued how this will end. It is clear that Rachel has planted her roots in Santorini, and isn’t looking back. But what about her marriage? She is still legally married, so why doesn’t she get a divorce? Does Oliver miss her? Is he still waiting for her? Or does he have another love now? And what about her friends? What do they think about Rachel? Will they eventually visit and talk to her?