Meredith Alone by Claire Alexander

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Meredith Alone by Claire Alexander

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A feel-good story about the effect of trauma on mental health. A real page turner!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: June 2022
Publisher: Michael Joseph
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0241542408

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When we first meet Meredith Maggs it's Wednesday 14 November 2018 and she's not left her home for 1,214 days. She'd like to: in fact, she so nearly does. Her outdoor clothes are on and she's even considered which shoes to wear if she's going to catch her train. Then, she can't. She simply can't force herself to leave the safety of her home. She's fortunate that she has a good friend, Sadie, who visits regularly with her two children, James and Matilda. Sadie's a cardiac nurse and full of sound common sense. In fact, it was Sadie who gave Meredith her cat, Fred. Groceries are online deliveries and there's also an internet-based support group where you'll find Meredith as JIGSAWGIRL, so you can guess what she does in her spare time. Then Tom McDermott arrives. He's from Holding Hands, a charity which supports people with problems such as Meredith's.

Meredith's a freelance writer and the income is enough to keep the wolf from the door. She's turned into a decent baker and Tom enjoys sampling what she produces. All-in-all, she's managed to make something of her (relatively restricted) life. There are three people missing from the scene, though. Gavin was the boyfriend but he's now moved out. That leaves Mer's sister, Fiona (who's eighteen months older than Meredith) and their mother. There hasn't been any contact for some considerable time. Meredith misses Fee. As children and young adults, their relationship was scratchy but they'd always have each other's backs, particularly where their mother was concerned.

Claire Alexander's characterisation is so good that it gave me a problem! You see, I had a similar model as a mother and Alexander's writing brought her back to frightening life to the extent that I ended up in tears at one point. This isn't a one-off in the characterisation department, either. You will love Meredith and will her to take a few more steps - and then fully understand why she's where she is when you hear the full story. Every character comes off the page fully formed - even the relatively minor ones. They all stayed with me after I'd finished the book and I found myself worrying about some of them. I do hope they'll be OK.

The plot's great too. It doesn't shy away from unpleasant facts and situations but handles them sensitively. I loved that the ending was satisfying but didn't tie up all the loose ends in a neat bow. Life's not like that.

I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy Fall On Me by Penelope Potts.

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