Countless by Karen Gregory
|Countless by Karen Gregory|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A brutally honest story of a girl with anorexia who becomes pregnant after a one-night stand. These are painful issues to explore and readers should take care over triggers but Gregory treads a delicate path with refreshing truthfulness and compassion.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: May 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Hedda is 20 weeks pregnant. It was a one-night stand, so there's no father on the scene. She's 17. She's in the grip of an eating disorder and has been for years. Her best friend recently died. She's living in a grotty flat because her relationship with her parents has broken down. I think we can all agree that the situation is dire. At first, Hedda feels she can't continue with the pregnancy and begins to plan for a late-term abortion. But the baby quickens and kicks and Hedda just can't go through with it, so the plan morphs into birth and adoption. She calculates that she needs to defeat Nia - the name with which she personifies her anorexia - for 357 meals so that the baby will be healthy.
Can she do it? Will she be able to give up the baby when it is born? And what will her parents say?
Good lord, but Countless is a brutal book. The odds are stacked against poor Hedda. Dealing with an eating disorder is hard enough. Being a pregnant teen is hard enough. Being out on your own in the world at 17 is hard enough. Grieving a friend is hard enough. But all these things together? Hedda isn't entirely alone though. Her midwife is kindly and non-judgemental. Therapist Felicity is steady and constant - if a little disapproving. There's neighbour Robin, who does his best to help even though he has problems of his own.
Nevertheless, Nia is a constant looming presence no matter how hard Hedda tries to fend her off. Money runs out. Hedda's mother hinders as much she helps.
Gregory herself says that Countless is fiction and Hedda is not me but that her own experience has informed the writing of this novel. And I think you can tell because it feels so very honest and there are so many realistic details, from resorting to pay day loans to the often difficult relationship between therapist and patient. A great many issues are fighting for headspace for Hedda and for the reader too, but Gregory draws them all together to paint an unflinching portrait of stories that play out for young women every day up and down the country. And she ends realistically but not without hope.
Countless is written with empathy and deep compassion and we could all do with more of that.
Meg Rosoff also deals with anorexia in the wonderful How I Live Now. Any readers struggling with self-esteem for any reason should look at The Self-Esteem Team's Guide to Sex, Drugs and WTFs?!! by The Self-Esteem Team, which offers accessible, friendly, non-judgemental advice for teens from approachable people, centred on developing self esteem. It helps that all three authors have "been there".
You can read more book reviews or buy Countless by Karen Gregory at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Countless by Karen Gregory at Amazon.com.
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