I dove into Skin knowing very little, and at first, it felt like swimming underwater in a cold lake – much like the Irish loughs which Matty feels strangely attracted to in the book. It's a bracing experience that requires acclimation. It’s murky down there and filled with mysterious shapes that are hard to discern. It's also beautiful and slightly unreal.
Like the shock of icy cold water, the experience of reading Kerry Andrew's second novel is exhilarating. The writer’s confidence is clear, easy to trust, and if you surrender to it, you find you’re already near the middle of the lake and a range of destinations are possible.
At its heart is a fascinating character – Matty as an eleven year-old in 1985 England, Matty as a young adult in 1999 Ireland – on a quest for identity, validation and a disappeared father. Revelations propel the narrative forward and inward, taking wild risks with the reader which ultimately pay off. They are both miraculously obvious and difficult to guess, and the resulting journey is consistently engaging and emotional.
The final act is a little too intent on resolution, with plot taking over from mood and character, and I yearned for a little more ambiguity (though others may get a kick out of the elegant way the mystery unravels). Still, Kerry Andrew is a gifted writer, the destination is less important than the voyage itself, and I was incredibly grateful to have met Matty and have spent a bit of time on their intimate and revealing journey.