Tomos is excited as he has been chosen to sing the solo at the Christmas concert at school and he hopes his mummy will be proud of him. But Mummy, Ree, also the victim of neglect, is devoid of parenting skills, dependent on drugs and wary of Social Services.
The story evolves through his eyes and we learn how he is always hungry, often dirty and sometimes left alone in the house. The world is a scary place for Tomos, with the exception of school where his teacher, Lowri, gives him ‘yummy’ sandwiches and clean clothes.
Tomas, not Thomas, as he proclaims, shows by his thoughts and actions, how he is desperate for love. He saves crisps and sweets for his mummy even though she forgets to feed him. Even at Christmas, which passes without any celebration in his house, there is no complaint. He accepts that is how his life is meant to be. That acceptance is tear-jerking. The reader wants someone to come and take Tomos somewhere safe.
Visitors to the house are friends of Brick, his mummy’s boyfriend, and drug dealers. The reader is aware disaster is looming and when it does come, it is shocking in its brutality. The sort of thing a child should never witness, leaving him traumatised.
His teacher proves to be his salvation, and, in the end, there is hope for Tomos. This was a compelling read but needed to be taken in slow steps as it was so poignant and written with real understanding of how neglect affects children.
The saddest thing about this story is that many people are aware of children like Tomos for whom there is little hope. Child poverty is rising in our society. That is heart-breaking.
Not Thomas is published by Honno. Sara Gethin is the pen name for Wendy White who writes highly acclaimed children’s books. This is her debut adult novel.