Sunday 29 May 2022

Meredith Alone by Claire Alexander #MeredithAlone @ClaireAWriter @MichaelJBooks @CiaraB_1 #BookReview


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, followed by an estranged sister she hasn't spoken to in years, and 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 . . .

Meredith Alone by Claire Alexander is published by Michael Joseph on 9 June 2022, my thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I am more than a little in love with Meredith Maggs! She truly is one of the most magnificent characters that I've ever come across. This is a beautifully written novel, with dashes of humour, a touch of heart break and a little bit of darkness, but always totally overshadowed by the sheer brilliance of Meredith's character.

Meredith has not left the house in 1214 days. She's a young woman, just forty years old, she has a job, she has a best friend, but she hasn't stepped foot over her doorstep for years. 

The story is cleverly told; in the present day, as Meredith's lonely life continues, and then with flash backs to both her childhood years, and to the events that led up to her self-imposed isolation.  Despite the fact that Meredith doesn't go outside, she does keep herself pretty busy. Her house is spotless, she bakes wonderful cakes and is expert at completing jigsaws, she also loves to read. She's  a freelance writer, so has work to get on with, she has an exercise routine, and of course, she has her constant companion Fred, the cat.

The only people who ever come to Meredith's house are her best friend from school, Sadie, who brings her two children along, and the Tesco online delivery guy. However, she's expecting a new visitor. Tom is a volunteer with the Helping Hands charity and is going to be a supportive visitor. For Meredith, this is huge but she gradually accepts Tom into her life and before long they are doing jigsaws together whilst Tom laps up her baking skills. Meredith speaks online to her counsellor, and she's a member of an online forum for people who are lonely. Recently, she's been in contact with Celeste, another forum user and for the first time, seems to have struck up more than the usual online association.

Meredith is estranged from her mother and her sister, despite the fact that she and her sister were once so very close. As the reader learns more about Meredith's younger years, and the abusive relationships she was part of, we begin to understand why she feels so much safer indoors. Locked away from potential heartbreak, disappointment and dangers. 

The appearance of both Tom and Celeste seem to spark something in Meredith, and she begins to take the smallest steps to regaining her life. As she does, she deals with her past issues, finally facing up to them and realising that she's not to blame for other people's actions. 

I adored this book. I was totally invested in Meredith and cheered for her every step of the way. The author's character creation is just wonderful, beginning with Meredith herself, right down to the small boy who lives on the same street. Each and every one of them are perfectly drawn and I felt as much a part of Meredith's life as they were. 

It's a heart tugger at times,  there's some revelations that are really emotionally challenging, but it's also a story that is filled with love and hope and the power of friendship. 

Wonderful, one of my books of the year, for sure, Highly recommended. 

Claire Alexander lives with her young family on the west coast of Scotland. 

A freelance journalist, she has written about parenting, sobriety, mental health and wellbeing for publications including The Washington Post,The Independent, The Huffington Post and Glamour. 

When she's not writing or parenting, she's on her paddle board, thinking about her next book.

Twitter @ClaireAWriter

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