My thanks to NetGalley, Emily Spurr and Text Publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
A Million Things by Emily Spurr
Release Date: March 30th, 2021
‘An original and impressively assured debut. A gem of a novel.’—Graeme Simsion, bestselling author of the Rosie trilogy
Rae is ten years old, and she’s tough. She’s had to be: life with her mother has taught her the world is not her friend. Now suddenly her mum is gone and Rae is alone, except for her dog Splinter.
Rae can do a lot of things pretty well for a kid. She can take care of herself and Splints, stay under the radar at school and keep the front yard neat enough that the neighbours won’t get curious. But she is gnawed at by fear and sadness; haunted by the shadow of a terrible secret.
Lettie, who lives next door, might know more about Rae than she lets on. But she has her own reasons for keeping the world at arm’s length. When Rae finds out what they are, it seems like she and Lettie could help each other.
But how long can a friendship last when it’s based on secrets?
Tender, funny, heartbreaking—A Million Things is a story of grief and resilience, told with eloquent simplicity. In brave, spiky Rae, Emily Spurr has created a character you will never forget.
When I began this book, I thought the premise was interesting. The imagery and sensations of the empty house made me feel so deeply for Rae. The development of her friendship with Lottie tugged at my heartstrings. Two people, so lost, yet comforted by the other’s presence in more ways than one. Not to mention the companionship she has in her dog, Splinter.
As the book progressed, and I began to understand what happened to her mother (to be fair, I had a hunch that turned out to be correct), all I wanted to do was reach in and pull Rae into the fiercest hug. The foil of Oscar to Rae, was very well done, and added a bit of frustrated hope for both the reader and Rae.
There are so many different parts of this book that I was not expecting, and I found many of them to be quite beautiful, but heart-breaking at the same time. She writes the character of Rae well, but I think that sometimes there needed to be a suspension of disbelief while Rae cared for herself. I find it hard to believe that no one could have realized what actually happened to Rae and her mother to the point where the story comes out nearly 50 days later.
This book was slow-paced, and a combination of character-driven and plot-driven story lines. However, I was able to read this book within two days. I did enjoy this book, and it did tug at my heartstrings, but I think it could have benefitted from more backstory on Rae through her narration. We only find out so much about her, and I think it would have been interesting to have more knowledge about her mother as well. The ending, with the introduction of a new character, kind of jarred me in a way that I didn’t expect. I was frustrated with how everything turned out for Rae, and I think Lottie deserved more as well.
Despite this, I will be patiently waiting for Emily Spurr’s second novel, whenever that may arrive, because I think she will bring a perspective to the table that is missing in Adult Fiction.
Content warnings: suicide, hurt animal, hoarding, dead animal, neglect, self-harm