When Faas Didn’t Come Home
Great emotional tension
Eleven-year-old Faas, a rich imagination, is a typical Martha Heesen figure. Exactly what goes on inside his head is unclear; the reader observes him through the eyes of his older brother Peet, who finds him a mystery too. This makes Faas all the more intriguing, and Heesen’s low-key narrative style leaves plenty of room for the reader to supply the missing information. She never explains what had happened on the fateful day one year previously, when Faas ran away from home and was brought back at dead of night.
The whole story centres on that incident and the events that preceded it. Looking back, Peet describes how Faas had been preparing to run away from home ever since he was eight, and how that day he had set out without any warning, with his drawing materials and stayed away until Peet finally found him and brought him home. Faas’s parents had reacted differently to his behaviour. At the time the incident happened his mother was still alive; she seemed to understand Faas and never worried that anything bad would happen to him. His father had more problems with Faas, partly because he was never able to really talk to the boy.
Peet watches his father suffer and slowly turn into an old man. After Faas’s breakout and their mother’s death, the tension becomes so acute that Peet, in desperation, tries to reconcile his father and brother.
Heesen creates a situation of great emotional tension, with a spare, taut style. Our sympathy goes out to Peet, in his struggle with himself and his family. Four years older than Faas, he is a strong personality with a powerful sense of responsibility — as are quite a few of the young main characters in Heesen’s books. Another familiar motif in her work is the silent tie between the children. Peet often doesn’t understand his brother, and yet they are close and aware of one another, almost as if they have a secret alliance.