Saturday, 22 December 2007

Hidden by Cathy Glass

HOW to be happy: it's the most difficult question, especially around Christmas, when happiness is mandatory, and sometimes pretty difficult.

Misery lit, as they call books about the deeply unfortunate, isn't any help either. Reading about children "surviving" (yeah, right) abuse, violence, mental cruelty and hunger isn't a road to calm.

But sometimes there's a story that's genuinely heartwarming, like Hidden, by Cathy Glass.

Foster carer Cathy (not her real name) here tells the story of Tayo, a 10-year-old assigned to her, who seems to have no past.

Tayo's mother, a drunken, screaming wreck who seems to live by freelance prostitution, exists in the English social system under several names linked only by her fingerprinting during arrests.

Tayo is not a mirror of his mother. Instead, he is polished, with perfect manners and an upper-class accent.

Gradually Tayo's extraordinary story comes out. At first he insists that he's white and won't eat "foreign muck". Then, as Cathy slowly gains his trust, he starts to claim that he grew up with his father and his grandmother in Nigeria, before his Malaysian mother stole him.

Cathy and Tayo's social workers don't really believe his story - but it proves perfectly true, and his father comes to claim him and bring him home to Africa.

So yes, there is real happiness.

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