EXCERPT: I swallow the acid and keep yelling. ‘A squashed, leathery, manky-furred cat with a paper plate on top of it.’ My shouting’s getting higher and squeaky in a way I don’t recognize. ‘That’s not what you keep in a house. That’s crazy!’
‘A dead cat!’ My breathing sounds funny. ‘Dead. A dead thing. Dead.’ I can’t stop saying the word. I need to stop saying that. ‘Dead.’ I push past her shaking, biting my tongue to stop my mouth betraying me further. I need to sit down.
‘You found my cat?’
I’m sitting with my head in my hands. Not thinking about the shed. Not thinking about the leathery cat body. This was a mistake. I’ve been working all day and all I’ve managed to do is clean a hallway. And the crazy old cat-smothering goat isn’t even thankful. As soon as I can get to my feet I’m going home. She can deal with the council and get kicked out of her house and I’m going to stay the hell away from it all. They’ll be so preoccupied with this pile of shit they probably won’t even look at my yard. It’s not like you can smell anything else when you’re inside her house. I shouldn’t have got involved in the first place. She’s nothing to me. I don’t need her or her stinking house and definitely not all the trouble she’s about to bring with her.
‘You found my cat?’ She drops a plastic bag – it looks like it’s got banh mi in it – on the chest and sits on the porch in front of me. I glance at her face. Her eyes are huge. Her face is so pale the little red veins near her nose look like they’ve been drawn on with pen. ‘You’ve found Sylvester?’
‘My cat. I thought he ran away.’ She looks horrified. ‘He was-‘
I don’t know what to say. I glance over to our yard, at the bin where I dumped the stiff, leathery, hole-filled carcass. I remember the sparkle I focused on as I shovelled the body off the floor. ‘Did he have a collar with jewels on it?’
She puts her head in her hands. ‘Oh God.’
I hover my hand near her head, then pull it back and slip it into my pocket. There are tissues in there. I kneel in front of her and offer her one. She takes it, holds it in her hand, nods. And we sit there like that, the two of us and a yard full of rubbish bags.
ABOUT ‘A MILLION THINGS’: 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 shop and cook a little and take care of Splints 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, the old woman 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 based on secrets last?
MY THOUGHTS: Funny. Sad. Heartbreaking. A Million Things will have your emotions all over the place. I laughed. I cried. A lot.
Rae is a resourceful ten-year-old. She’s had to be. Even more so now. But in reality, how’s she going to hold it together now that her mother’s not there? How long can she make the meager amount of money in the bank account last? How long before someone notices that her mother is no longer there, and calls in the authorities? Someone like the nosy old goat next door.
Lettie is the nosy old goat next door. She thinks Rae’s rude. But she watches out for her all the same. She doesn’t want the authorities poking their noses in either, for reasons of her own.
When someone down the street reports Lettie, these two form a mutual protection society and slowly, a friendship. But, even together, they can’t hold off the authorities forever.
A Million Things is one of those rare, beautifully written books that is both heartbreaking and uplifting. It is a story of resilience, grief and friendship. The characters are so very real, they could have stepped off the page and into my lounge. I simply couldn’t get enough of this book.
The story takes place over 55 days, and is told from Rae’s point of view. Her dog, Master Splinter, is another important character in this book. He is all Rae has left from ‘before’.
This is a moving read. A very emotional one. A beautiful one. One that I am going to be recommending to everyone.
Yet another new, extremely talented, Australian writer for me to follow. Please put me down for her next book now.
I: @spurr.emily @text_publishing
T: @SpurrEmily @text_publishing
#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #australianfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife
THE AUTHOR: Originally from Tasmania, Emily lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her partner, their twins and a deaf, geriatric cat.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Text Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Million Things by Emily Spurr. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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