Martha Heesen

When Faas Didn’t Come Home

About the importance of communicating and not becoming estranged.

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.
Noor Hellmann

Great empathy and psychological insight.

NRC Handelsblad

Martha Heesen creates great emotional tension with few words. She is an author we should cherish.

NRC Handelsblad

The intriguing introduction immediately grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go throughout the entire book.

De Limburger

“I’m fifteen now, and so it’s already more than a year ago, but I can still remember every minute of that day. I just couldn’t go to school. ‚Shouldn’t you be on your way?’ my father kept saying to me, and I remember how I just stared at him, not understanding what he meant. I mustn’t go, I couldn’t go, I couldn’t leave my father and my brother alone that day. Perhaps I’d never again be able to leave them alone together; that morning I had the feeling that I would have to look after them for ever, that I would spend the rest of my life running backwards and forwards between the two of them.?


Martha Heesen

Having won three Zilveren Griffels (De vloek van Cornelia, Mijn zusje is een monster and Stekels) and the Gouden Uil for Toen Faas niet thuis kwam (2003), Martha Heesen (b. 1948) is undeniably one of the best children’s authors in the Netherlands. A strong psychological portrayal and evocative…

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Toen Faas niet thuis kwam (2003). Children's books, 96 pages.
Words: 22,768

Age: 12+


Reading for empathy


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