Emma is travelling on the bus on her way home from work when she unwillingly becomes a witness to a violent attack on an unarmed youth. Afraid to get involved, her conscience gnaws at her, especially when she realises the event led to the murder of a young man. Riddled with insecurity and a severe lack of self confidence, Emma knows she has to do the right thing even though she just wants to run and hide.
Life for single mum Louise seems to be on the up. A good man in her life, her daughter auditioning for stage school and her son Luke finally losing his troublesome streak and trying to turn his life around. Then Luke is badly beaten and life hangs in the balance for all of them.
Doting Dad Andrew and his wife are helpless when an ordinary evening suddenly turns into every parents worst nightmare - the fatal stabbing of their only son, Jason, in their own front garden. On hand but unable to prevent the crime, Andrew finds very little solace in the fact that his son was actually a hero.
I know it seems like I've completely given the plot away in just three short paragraphs, but these events are covered in the first chapter of the book. The story is more about how such events can completely turn peoples lives around and how thin the life we take for granted can be.
Each chapter is split so we can follow the three main characters Emma, Andrew and Louise and how the tragedy affects them personally. Obviously as Louise and Andrew are parents to the victims, their accounts are quite heart breaking at times, but for all three people, their individual personalities are well described. Louise has a hard exterior and is a very strong woman, she has previously dealt with personally tragedy, been let down, struggled financially and raised two children on her own. It seemed to me that she doesn't trust many people, although she is very sensible and streetwise.
Andrew struggles to come to terms with the loss of his only son and the dreams and ambitions they shared. He comes across as very good natured, maybe a little too soft at times and completely devoted to his wife. While the anger threatens to change him and his perspective on life, it takes him a while to notice that his wife, who always seems so strong, is struggling too.
Emma first seemed like quite a weak link to me. Obviously there needed to be a witness, but I wondered why she was one of the main characters. However, the more I read of her, the more she added to the book. Weak willed, undermined, self deprecating due to a lack of confidence, it was no wonder she didn't want to get involved when she witnessed the altercation. And you can't help but ask yourself the question - what would I do? I'm embarrassed to say that without the support from other passengers on the bus I'm not sure I would intervene either. Although not a completely happy one, the story of Emma, her life and the ways she decides to change it are also a nice bit of respite from the main story.
The book covers the after shock from the attack from the families perspective, how the paths of the three main characters cross. It shows how they are each affected by the media attention and in turn how the media affect the public perception of the case. It also covers the court case and verdict, not too indepth but in my opinion, quite realistically.
I hope I'm not giving the impression of a dull and depressing book! I REALLY enjoyed it, it did make me cry, it did make me question myself and it did make me see things from a different perspective at times. I think I liked it so much because of the fluid writing style and the honest feel throughout. It may be a fictional story but it sadly replicates so much of what is going on around us today. Not all the endings are tied up with a happy little bow, instead it is kept simply realistic. I liked all the characters, even Emma although it took a little longer to warm to her. In fact, I think this would make a great t.v. drama.