If there is one overriding adjective that describes this book, it is real. The story has all of the random details and chaotic sequences of events that made me absolutely sure it was not a work of fiction. Reality does not follow streamlined plots and so this book's narrative was anything but predictable. As I read deeper into the book, I shouldn't have been surprised that my search for heroes and villains became more complicated. With the exception of Cathy and her family (and I can hardly blame the writer for seeing herself and her family through rose-colored glasses), all of the book's characters defy easy sorting into the hero and villain categories. By the end of the book even Susan becomes as much a failed hero as a villain. In reality, we are all a mix of good and evil acts and the reality of this story highlights that complicated union of love and abuse, neglect and care, concern and apathy that we all find in varying degrees in everyone we come to know well.
The book is a good read although I will complain slightly about the language. Cathy is from England and so uses vocabulary that can be somewhat unfamiliar (although nothing a quick Google search can't explain). It's somewhat confusing to read about "A-levels", for example, which are never explained. There are a few obvious typos - a police officer's name switches between Vicky and Nicky at one point. Overall I liked the pacing and style of the writing and it wasn't ever laborious to read.
My biggest complaint about this book is that it is simply one account of a foster parent and an abused child. If you were under the illusion that there are no neglected and abused children out there, this will be a real eye-opener, but I'm guessing almost everyone will go into this book very aware of the terrible things children endure even in so-called developed nations. Instead of being a systematic study or a call to action, this is simply one more anecdote about the abuse one child faced and the miracles that one set of foster and adoptive parents worked. Cathy occasionally complains about "the system" but doesn't offer any suggestions on how to fix it.
Bottom line: this is a gut-wrenching account of one foster parent saving a little girl from horrific abuse and neglect. If that sounds like something you'd enjoy, this is your book. I, on the other hand, can't say I enjoyed it so much as I appreciated its commitment to a realistic portrayal. Borrowing from Rachel's star system, I give it
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆