Meredith hasn’t left her house for 1,214 days. Why? Well, that’s what the book is about.
The thing is, although we might think Meredith is trapped, she’s been trapped before, and she got out. Meredith is a great protagonist. I really liked that, although she has retreated from the world, she still invites people to come to her. I liked that she looks after herself (using online fitness videos) and her home, keeps herself working at home with a strict routine, and I liked how she takes her jigsaws and baking very seriously. Essentially, she doesn’t fall into a stereotype.
The book is narrated by Meredith and starts when she is first visited by Tom, from a befriending charity. She tells us about how she is supporting other people who have mental health issues on an online forum, and we know that is currently estranged from her family, especially her sister. She welcomes Tom, who over the course of the book eats a LOT of her food, and she also begins an online friendship with Celeste from the forum. These two friendships are about to play a big part in her life. Larger than the page is Meredith’s best friend Sadie, a single mum with two children, who has always been there for Meredith and I really loved the portrayal of the two women’s friendship.
The action of the book, such as it is, takes place over about six months but this is a book that is really driven by the characters and how they interplay.
I don’t want to spoil the story however, I should say that there are difficult subjects raised so if you think you might be upset by storylines of abuse or sexual violence, then please read carefully. These are handled delicately and sensibly but can still be upsetting or triggering for readers.
In short, I raced through reading this book and thought it was well done. Meredith is a fabulously drawn character and you want her to succeed. I enjoyed seeing how she supported others without really knowing her own worth, and her relationships with others are sensitively and skilfully drawn. An enjoyable read that takes its subject matter seriously and never messes about with its audience for kicks.
Meredith Alone by Claire Alexander is published on 9 June by Penguin. Thanks to Netgalley for my advanced review copy.