What Jamie Saw is the second book about abuse I've read in the past few weeks, although its aim and direction differ greatly from the previous one. Room was a book about abuse written for adults; the child narrator sees what happens, but the abuser focuses on an another adult. Carolyn Coman's book What Jamie Saw is written for children and the child narrator sees another child at risk. The level of evil also shifts; the bad guy in ROOM was recruited from the Ultimate Evil team, while the perpetrator in Conan's book knows he did wrong and regrets his actions.
Jamie however knows that what he saw was horrific; his stepfather Van cracked under the relentless sound of Jamie's baby sister's crying and threw her across the room. Miraculously Jamie's mother caught the baby and instantly called Jamie over and left. She finds them a place of safety and the rest of the books finds them slowly finding a safe way to re-enter a world that suddenly seems dark and frightening. First they find their friends, then they try to step back into public, always afraid of seeing Van, then gradually trying to slide back into school and work but now with a knowledge that sometimes the world shifts and you have to get away.
Jamie is older but less perceptive than Room's Jack, expressing himself often by his need to run or move rather than by his thoughts. I'm not sure how a child would react to this book; it was hard for me to distance myself enough to remember how I'd react years ago, when I'd identify with the kids rather than with the adults. I don't think I'll leave this one around for my boys to read; it doesn't feel like the kind of book I want them to read under the impression that I want them to read it.