Book review: Hidden by Cathy Glass

I just finished rereading another amazing Cathy Glass memoir.

This book centers on nine year old Tayo. He arrives at Cathy’s door shortly after new years after having been picked up by his school by the police. Social services were called several times but had a hard time tracking down Tayo. His mother never came to the school for anything except to drop him off the first day. The school was very concerned about Tayo’s appearance always wearing the same clothes, hungry, washing up in the s school bathrooms, and talking about staying at an alarming amount of people’s houses over the past six months. Finally social services caught up with the situation and Tayo was placed with Cathy.

This was more than a basic situation of neglect. When Cathy looked at the forms that were supposed to show Tayo’s history and all other medical information they were completely blank except for his name and age. Tayo said that he’d been in this country five years but had never seen a doctor, rarely gone to school and was very guarded at first about his past.

Tayo’s mother Minty was an alcoholic drug addict and probably mentally ill. The social worker could never track down her address, she would not go to meetings when asked to and often was seen out of control yelling at the social workers. She demanded supervised contact but nine times out of ten hardly went.

It was clear from Tayo’s stories, once he opened up, that he had been on the run avoiding the authorities. He had no passport, wasn’t registered anywhere in the UK. He and his mother would stay with friends, in bed and breakfasts, though they had to run away before the owner found out they wouldn’t be paying, squats, on the streets or anywhere they could.

Tayo would lie, steal, and manipulate situations. Though much of the time he was genuinely polite there were times his anger would come out, or he’d lie and you could see the toll the trauma took. But overall he enjoyed life at Cathy’s with routine and firm boundaries and the ability to just relax and be a kid.

Meanwhile right from the beginning Tayo had emphasized that he wanted to go live with his father and Gramma in Nigeria. Which was a complete surprise to everyone as there was no record of him in Nigeria or way to trace his father. No one was sure he even existed. The rollercoaster ride this envolved was raw and emotional for everyone. The unbelievable emotional ending is just so heartfelt.

Cathy states quite clearly at the end of the book that Tayo’s story is not something that rarely happens. That in the UK there are many children that are “hidden” not registered and living in horrific conditions. She was so touched by her time with Tayo and would always be in touch with him.

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