cover image A Million Things

A Million Things

Emily Spurr. Berkley, $17 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-33273-3

Spurr delivers a haunting account of a young girl grappling with abandonment in this excellent debut. Rae, a 10-year-old living just outside Melbourne, Australia, alone with her dog Splinter, attempts to hide that her depressive mother has hanged herself in the garden shed. To ease the loneliness, Rae narrates her inner thoughts to the specter of her mother. Distracting from her grief, Rae counts the days and compulsively keeps herself occupied with school and a list of tasks to maintain her home and the image of a normal child. Her routine is interrupted by the elderly Lettie, a hoarder living next door with her own painful past who spends her days watching the girl’s coming and goings. Rae reluctantly befriends the old woman and concocts schemes for them both in order to keep social services at bay. When a nosy neighborhood boy and his mother uproot her plans after a month and half of living alone, Rae must confront her circumstances: “most of your life is just memories, some of them not even that clear. And it’s just a house that reminds you what it felt like when you thought it was a home. You don’t realize how ephemeral it is.” Through Rae’s devastating yet hopeful interior dialogue, Spurr delicately illustrates the complexity of loss and isolation. Fans of Liane Moriarty should take a look. (Aug.)