Five Days Gone

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 27 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

I thought this would be more true crime and less navel gazing memoir, but I was disappointed. I wanted it to be about the mother, but instead it was about the daughter (the author) and that was not where the actual story was.
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Five Days Gone follows the true story of Betty and how events in her early childhood, kept from her, shaped her life. It’s a blend of mystery, biography, and family history. It is a story of a time long past, but recent enough that it’s not so foreign. Being written by Betty’s daughter blends in another level of of complexity to many of the descriptions and observations, like a tale within a tale. It becomes clear that while not knowing even if the existence of the kidnapping, the kidnapping shapes the author’s world as well.

It is clear from the beginning that the kidnapping shaped Betty’s world. Laura Cummings does well dancing around the kidnapping slowly pealing back the layers of the secret beginning with how the secret of the kidnapping could have been kept. 

I loved some of the descriptions of the people. As the narration bounces back and forth between the author and her mother’s memoir, it is entertaining the differences in how they saw the same people or events and the significance. Laura Cummings still seems to have a bit of child’d wonder about her mother and it is beautiful.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the places, then and now. Laura Cummings is successful on making the scenery and time come to life. The story flows in a meandering way like a comfortable conversation about an uncomfortable but intriguing secret.

The author uses the events to ponder not just on her mother’s life, but on many larger concepts, even meandering to the philosophical. I enjoyed the book. 

I was given an advanced copy of Five Days Gone by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Five Days Gone by Laura Cumming is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late August.

Cumming investigates the mystery of her mother Elizabeth’s childhood kidnapping from a beach in 1929 by examining all known possibilities before delving further into research, though it's told nearly all in the aftermath of her return and learning the truth of her parentage. It's just way too dense a story for what could be summed up in, say, 4 sentences.
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2 stars
5 Days Gone is a weirdly introspective book. It reads almost as someone's diary or blog  who is trying to hard to be "real" or "edgy. I was very interested in kidnapping part of the story, but the author kept going off on rambling tangents. 
This is one of those books that is going to either be loved or hated.   
I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
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She started out her life as Grace until she was adopted before age 3, then she was Betty. A name she never liked. Later she called herself Elizabeth. An older couple  adopted her at age 3, George and Veda Elston. She grew to dislike George, who was controlling and didn’t want her mingling with others in the tiny village. She wasn’t allowed to go out and play with any of the local kids. This story is about the discovery of her strange disappearance that happened when she was about 3, but she wasn’t aware of until she was in her 50’s, that’s shared with and written about by her daughter. Who took her and why? And for what reason was she returned days later…?  Read to find out.  Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Laura Cumming, and the publisher. 

3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.   Thank you NetGalley!

Laura's mother Betty was mysteriously kidnapped when she was three.. only to suddenly show up a few days later.    This story tells about that mystery.
It felt lacking at times...    didn't hold my interest as much as i hoped.
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I love family mysteries. Five Days Gone unravels the layers of secrets recoding no around the author's mother, Betty, who originally was called Grace. One day she disappeared from the beach, only to turn up a few days later. Most of the local villagers knew the truth about the incident as well as Betty's true parentage, but even years later, kept the secrets. Cumming reveals the truth painstakingly slowly: her mother's cold, austere upbringing, the truth about her parentage, unknown family members coming forward, and perhaps, finally a sense of belonging that she had never felt. It's a sad, yet inspiring story that you're never to old to hear famiky truths.
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Do note this is not a true crime book, even though the description makes it sound like it may be.  That was okay with me, because I wasn't in the mood for a true crime story.   It's more of a drawn out family story that I'm afraid I found dull much of the time.  Laura Cumming tells her story in a poetic way, a way I have nothing against, except the story moves so slowly that I lost all interest in everyone in it long before the end.  This was also yet another book where the author constantly imagines what others in the past were thinking and feeling and doing. Some imaging is certainly okay, but when it goes on throughout an entire nonfiction book, I believe the story should have been written as a novel.  That way authors can imagine to their heart's content.  That's what novelists are suppose to do.

A work of fiction has a greater demand made on it, too; namely, it will, or should be, asked before publication is the story interesting enough to be published?  Apparently, with contemporary memoirs, that question is so often  not asked.  There seems to be some strange ideas that however a memoirist tells her or his story is okay, whatever conclusions they reach should not be questioned, nothing about the memoir should be critically judged by others. This is not good since obviously many memoirists don't realize their family stories may mostly be interesting to themselves and their families, not to the general reading public.  That's not to suggest this book will not find an audience, most do.  It's to suggest this "kidnapping" and "stolen identity" story, that is being described as "an extraordinary personal narrative unlike any other", is going to disappoint or exasperate many readers.
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4.5 Stars!!
Laura Cumming masterfully pens her mother’s experiences during her turbulent and sometimes shocking childhood!  Laura’s mother, Betty, was mysteriously kidnapped right under her mother’s nose when she was three years old.  Betty was eventually returned 5 days later (hence the title) like nothing ever happened!  Being that Betty was just three at the time, she had fuzzy to little memory of the situation.  Betty’s parents oddly never spoke of it, but as time goes on, you quickly realize that it wasn’t just this occurrence they did’t talk about.  Years later, major secrets would be revealed and decades after that, Betty would again find out huge revelations about herself previously never spoken about!

I was completely captivated by Elizabeth/Betty’s story!  The domino effect her childhood circumstances had on her throughout her entire life were immense.  I am in complete awe of how Elizabeth was able to go on to become such a great mother despite her tumultuous childhood.  I really felt the photos Laura added here and there through the novel added so much to this book!  I was able to put an actual face to a name, which for me made my heart go out to Elizabeth even more!  I really found myself completely immersed in this candid read! I highly recommend it!
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Lyrical, moving discussion of the author’s family history and how secrets can cause damage throughout generations.  

My only quibble is with the description of the book.  The synopsis makes it sound as though the emphasis in the book will be on the kidnapping rather than on the family history.  Thus, early on I was impatient, wondering when the book’s discussion of that event would begin.  But this criticism is with the marketing of the book rather than with its content.
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