After the final sentence of this book, I paused and then actually “oohed” in awe – it’s not quite a fairytale ending but a perfect one none the less.
I happened across Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander on the library Libby App for digital downloads and something about it piqued my interest.
This is one of those books I started reading and real life disappeared for a while. I was rooted to the chair, completely involved in Meredith’s world and heavily invested in her, if not happiness, then survival. It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel.
I will warn you, it contains sensitively written references to depression, self-harm, sexual assault, domestic violence and suicide.
You might think those topics mean it’s impossible to enjoy a book but the best way I can describe it is while the tale is heartbreaking, it is also heartwarming.
Here’s the blurb:
Meredith Maggs hasn’t left her house in 1,214 days. But she insists she isn’t alone.
She has her cat, Fred. Her friend Sadie visits when she can. There’s her online support group, StrengthInNumbers. She has her jigsaws, favourite recipes, her beloved Emily Dickinson, the internet, the Tesco delivery man and her treacherous memories for company.
But something’s about to change.
First, new friends Tom and Celeste burst into her life. Then an estranged sister she hasn’t spoken to in years.
Suddenly her carefully curated home is no longer a safe place to hide.
Whether Meredith likes it or not, the world is coming to her door . . .
What made Meredith unable to leave her house? That’s the mystery we are eager to solve at the start. There are various hints at what it could have been and things are eventually revealed (no spoilers) but, in my mind, it wasn’t just one big thing but maybe everything.
Chapters switch between past and present every now and then as the story warrants it, which works really well in drip feeding us bits of essential information.
This book left me wanting more, ideally a book two but perhaps I’d be upset if the future I dream up for Meredith is different to the one the author writes?
Something I have thought about in the days after reading is how realistic Meredith’s healing journey was. As it’s not one I’ve been on, it’s obviously hard for me to say. Does it matter? It is fiction and not a self-help book, after all. Is it enough that the overriding feeling I was left with is one of hope? It’s something I’m still pondering but I think it is.
While this book isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, it was an easy five stars for me.
Thanks to Norfolk Libraries for the loan.