This book intrigued me as soon as I saw it. Succinct title, mysterious cover and once I read the premise, I had to try it.
In Wintery Belarus, a young boy has just lost his mother to cancer. Asher her only living relatives, the boy and his grandfather take it upon themselves to honour her last request and scatter her ashes in the woodlands of her childhood.
Frightened to leave the city and still grieving, the boy and his papa embark on the journey, taking the last of his mama’s famed gingerbread.
The grandfather has always told stories for the boy, but as they delve deeper into the woods, the stories become much darker and scarily real. Grandfather has a history with the forest and his return to the wild after so many years away has unimaginable consequences for both man and boy.
I thought the way this story was put together was excellent. With the sad events at the start, the grandfather and grandson are thrown together and so the foundations of their relationship are built upon their shared task and impending journey, but also develops as that journey continues on. The grandfather’s stories, which are a mix of fairytales and past events, makes it much more interesting to read and also builds up suspense to the events surrounding the main characters in the present.
You have the grandfather’s side of things with his stories but you see a lot of the action from the little boys point of view. Children have such an innocent and wonderous view of the world and this perspective in the story telling gives a vaguely magical tone to the narrative.
With the interweaving stories and pleasantly descriptive prose, I found myself getting quite emotionally invested in the characters. Robert Dinsdale paints vivid imagery of the tale and tugs at your heartstrings in the process.
Gingerbread is a fascinatingly dark and enigmatic story of past lives and family, with touches of history and the magic of fairytales and folklore, which together make this a worthwhile read.