Sunday, 15 November 2015

Book Review - "Every Time A Bell Rings" by Carmel Harrington.

Christmas.  A time of family, festivities and fun.  Or is it?  What happens when you are about to lose someone you love?  Belle and Jim are wishing they could skip Christmas this year.  As foster parents, they are about to say goodbye to their foster daughter, Lauren, who is returning to her mother.  The couple have first hand experience of foster care, but with two very different outcomes.  Belle is feeling disillusioned with being a foster parent and the couple fight.  A tragic accident leads Belle to question her very existence in the world and she contemplates leaving it...
But, then something strange happens.  A young girl intervenes and shows Belle what the world would be like if she had not been in it.  They wander the streets of Dublin, watching the changes in the lives of those who Belle loves best.  Would they really be better off without her?  

Carmel Harrington has bravely addressed the issue of Foster Care, but in a balanced a sensitive way.  So many 'misery-lit' books tell the horrors of children in care and how they can 'slip through the cracks', 'bounce from home to home' or become a 'statistic'.  But, this is not true of many cases.  Many children in care are given a second chance at a new life.  Sometimes their birth parents just need some respite, sometimes the child needs more help than their parents can offer.  More often than not, there are issues of addiction or mental health.  The author  uses her characters to show there are different outcomes to all placements.  Belle had a bad start in life, but found a wonderful foster mother and learned the meaning of love.  Jim was eventually reunited with his mother and found himself part of a family unit again.  The children that the couple end up fostering all have something in common.  They are loved and respected by Belle and Jim.  No questions asked. 
However, Belle hits rock bottom when she learns that her young foster daughter is about to be returned to her mother.  Although everyone seems to think this is in the best interest of the child, what about Belle?  What about Jim? What about their hearts?  How can they continue to have their hearts broken, when a child is taken away from them?  Using the movie It's a Wonderful Life as inspiration, Carmel Harrington leads her readers through the 'what-ifs' of Belle's world.  Flashbacks and memories are interlaced throughout the novel and Dublin is described with a winter wonderland feel.  Famous landmarks are coated with snow, shops are brimming with Christmas decorations and carol-singers are entertained the shoppers.  A guardian angel is introduced and the magic begins...

An ideal Christmas read, with a twist on the tradition of 'family',  Carmel has sprinkled some fairy dust on Dublin and brought the role of foster parents to the general reader.  Not all children in care are victims, some are just lucky to have found a safe, love-filled home.  For however long they need it...

Every Time A Bell Rings is published by Harper Impulse in paperback on 19th November 2015 and is currently available in ebook format.  


  1. Can't wait to read this closer to Christmas.

  2. Started this last night, after buying it at Carmel's book launch. Already half way through, and hugely enjoying it!


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