Simon van der Geest
In this captivating adventure, a girl goes in search of her biological father
Any subject is allowed for the school project, as long as it has something to do with biology. So Eva (12) decides to make her project about biological fathers. She doesn’t know much about that subject, as her own father returned to Suriname before she was born. Her mum was left behind with ‘a belly with a beginning in it. The beginning of me.’ And now she will hardly say a word about Eva’s dad.
Simon van der Geest worked on this book for four years, and it has been worth the wait. This is a wonderfully cinematic, fluently written adventure for which the word ‘enthralling’ seems to have been invented.
As in his Spinder and Spijkerzwijgen, the story revolves around a family secret and, just like in those books, a true-to-life narrative voice and sometimes gently poetic sentences come together in a natural way.
Eva’s research into her father begins secretly and on a small scale: she searches through her mother’s belongings and finds his name, a scrap of a photograph with his arm in it, and a cassette with his voice. She also concludes that, like her, he must have eleven toes. Her mental image of this father who is a stranger grows, as does her longing to meet him in the flesh.
When Eva approaches a TV show to help her with the search, the story appears to be taking a predictable turn. But as Eva shakes off the TV crew in the colourfully described Suriname and heads off into the jungle on her own, the tension rises. Van der Geest succeeds in making this turn of events completely believable.
Eva’s reflections give a solid foundation to this adventure, with a warm supporting role for her best friend Luuk: Can you feel blood ties? What makes someone a father? Is she Dutch or Surinamese? It is no surprise that she eventually concludes she has learned more about biological daughters than about biological fathers.
Karst-Janneke Rogaar has drawn Eva’s project in a child-like style, and her detailed jungle illustrations really leap off the page.