Darling’s comedic novel makes us think about the people who pick us up in taxis and drive us to our destinations. What must it be like to be a taxi driver waiting for their next fare? Did they ever have hopes and dreams of being anything else?
Mac is the taxi driver who needs to hold down his job while being solely responsible for two teenage girls – sensible Stella and out of control Caris – because his wife gets sent to prison for stealing one shoe and then using it to attack the police officer who tries to arrest her afterwards. Mac is not best pleased when his mother-in-law moves in to “help” as she is not the sharpest tool in the box and she likes her TV, fags and a drink.
Stella tries to keep things ticking over at home and continues to excel at school but no-one notices that she is losing the skin on her hands because of her obsessive cleaning.
Caris is bullied at school so stops attending and bunks off with a posh lad from across town who encourages her to start throwing shoes up into a tree because of what has happened to her mother.
The tree becomes a symbol of hope and shelter and gradually more and more people start to add their own shoes and decorations.
Caris however stays off school so long that her father is eventually in trouble and he tries to get to the bottom of her rebellion. She can’t articulate her problem to anyone though as Stella is the sister with all the words.
Caris is finally made aware of just how dangerous George, the posh boy, is and at that point her father can actually do something to help.
The ending is far fetched but the humour throughout will keep you reading to the denouement.