The Unusual Abduction of Avery Conifer by Ilsa Evans

‘It was not shaping up to be a good day.’

Four-year-old Avery Conifer is abducted by her grandmothers Shirley and Beth when they suspect she is being harmed by her father, Shirley’s son Daniel. Avery’s mother, Beth’s daughter Cleo, is in gaol for contravening an intervention order, and Daniel has full-time care of Avery. Shirley and Beth might not agree on much, but they are united in their desire to keep Avery safe. They pack their bags and, together with Shirley’s eighty-nine-year-old mother Winnie, and Beth’s miniature schnauzer Harthacnut (Harth), they set off. Naturally, Daniel involves the police.

Imagine: three women, a child and a dog trying to maintain a low profile while on the run across Victoria. Beth has planned well; Winnie surprises them all with her technical expertise and Shirley just goes along (mostly) with what Beth suggests. And what follows is a journey through the best and worst of family. Beth and Shirley want to keep Avery safe with them until Cleo is released from gaol.

This is such a clever novel: each of the women comes to life, and Avery is delightful. There are some laugh out loud moments in the journey, as well as an appreciation of the different ways in which women mother and nurture. Beth, Shirley, and Winnie are united in wanting to keep Avery safe, and spending time together, outside their usual routines enables each of them to reflect on what they want out of their own lives. Daniel doesn’t make it easy for them and the involvement of the media and the police makes life on the run challenging.

I enjoyed this novel, both the serious aspects of caring for family as well as the more humorous escapades. A terrific and heart-warming read.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith