Snap by Belinda Bauer is nominated for Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2018. Man Booker is awarded to some of the best writings of the year. It is a given fact, hence, that Snap is worth reading. Now, there are two types of good reading.
One, like VS Naipaul — that are meant for literature enthusiasts; and others like Harper Lee –that can be enjoyed by everyone. Snap falls under the latter category.
“I won’t be gone long.” This is what Jack’s mother tells him and his two sisters, Joy and Merry when their car breaks down and she goes to find help. Jack, a typical 11-year-old is in charge of his two younger sisters. His pregnant mother does not return and is later discovered dead by police.
The story picks up two years later and follows two different people mainly, whose paths will overlap. Jack, only 14 now, has become the caretaker of the family. His father has abandoned them. He looks after his two sisters while imagining the life he had before his mother was murdered. His only objective in life is to find out what happened to his mother that day.
Catherine, an eight-month pregnant woman, leads a good life with her husband Adam. One night, when her husband is out for work, she hears a noise and goes to check it. On coming back, she sees a knife on her bed with a chilling note saying, “I could have killed you.” Catherine is very scared and for the next fifty pages or so, she keeps getting calls from the same person who left her the note.
The first thing good about Snap is that it is a short novel. Unlike many other mystery novels, Snap does not really have a hundred characters. This helps in keeping the storyline interesting and in focus.
The one person who gets all the space in the novel is Jack. Only 11 years old when his mother was snatched away from him, Jack becomes the character that will draw the most attention. Belinda has done a beautiful job portraying him. His dreams, his vulnerabilities, his love for his family and his resolution to find out his mother’s killer — all of these make him the character that stays with you even after you have finished reading the book.
Snap has heartbreakingly portrayed how the loss of a family member uproots the existence of a family. Jack was a normal child. He disliked his sisters and was mostly irritated with his mother. But in one snap, his life changes forever. His mother is dead, his father disappears and he is in charge of holding together the pieces of the family he is left with. He becomes a thief named Goldilocks, often sleeping in the beds of the families he breaks into, to escape his reality.
From the beginning, it is clear that Jack writes that note to Catherine. Why he does that is revealed later on.
The reader will have a problem with Catherine’s character. She is worried about what she eats but refuses to tell her husband about the threats. Even when she gets the anonymous calls, even when her husband repeatedly asks her, she refuses to say anything. This is extremely hard to believe for a woman who is pregnant and is always worried for her child.
The book should have given more space to the character that killed Jack’s mother. There is no way someone would kill a pregnant woman like that unless the person has some psychological issues! Those issues should have been explored more. Even when asked about the crime, the person does not really give a satisfying answer. A little insight into the killer’s mind and what the person felt after murdering a stranger woman would have made the book more interesting.
The author has put so much effort into developing Jack as a character that everything and everyone else pales in comparison. Jack’s father who disappears when his wife is murdered, reappears so suddenly, it is hard to believe.
I kept waiting for that punch to arrive, for that Eureka moment which never came. The story is almost predictable and the reader will guess the ending before actually reading it.
But amid all the crime and robbery and responsibility, this is essentially a story of a broken family. A story of three children who had to grow up in a mini-second to survive and face the world alone. A story of a husband who cannot cope with the death of his wife and refuses to accept reality. A story of a broken house that is full of newspapers containing news of the murder of its caretaker.
Belinda Bauer does a beautiful job showing a broken family that is trying to pick up the pieces of their life. This part of the novel might stay with the reader more than the actual murder mystery.