‘All Our Hidden Gifts’ – Caroline O’Donoghue


Maeve Chambers, the youngest of five children, is a fairly ordinary sixteen year old girl in many ways. She feels acutely conscious that she’s not as clever as her siblings, not as interesting as her peers and has no idea what she wants to do. She is fizzing with a desire to do something but doesn’t know what that something could be.

When she gets into trouble in school she is given a detention which involves clearing out an abandoned storeroom. While there she finds an old Walkman and a pack of tarot cards. So begins her new interest…

Maeve teaches herself to read the tarot cards and finds herself to have something of a knack for it. She likes the feeling she gets when she does readings for her schoolmates. Unfortunately, after she does a reading for Lily – the girl who used to be her best friend until Maeve abandoned her in an attempt to garner popularity – things go horribly wrong. Lily disappears, and Maeve is convinced (because of the presence of a mysterious card known as the Housekeeper) that she is responsible.

The mystery of what happened to Lily is at the heart of the book but never really examined, and glossed over later. It is inextricably linked to the rise of an ultra-conservative Christian group sowing discord and hatred amongst the community. No one escapes this.

There was a lot going on here, and it wasn’t always clear which strand was driving the book. Interesting idea, and certainly topical, but I didn’t really feel engaged enough by Maeve to care too much what happened to her and the characters I was intrigued by were often sidelined just when things could have been interesting.