Marianne's Reviews > A Million Things

A Million Things by Emily Spurr
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it was amazing
Read 2 times. Last read March 9, 2021 to March 10, 2021.

A Million Things is the first novel by Australian author, Emily Spurr. Rae’s mum has left before: “The silence you left after you grabbed the keys from the bowl on the table and slammed out the door would stand like a person beside me. The bang made me jump every time. Even though I knew it was coming. Knew from the second your eyes lost focus and tightened and you stopped seeing me and saw only this thing ruining your life. You’d shout, grab those keys and stalk to the door, and bang. And I would jump.” But she’s always come back.

On this winter Sunday, when Rae wakes, mum’s bed unslept in and the back door wide open, it’s different. She and Splinter (the dog) check the backyard, and she understands mum isn’t coming back. Rae may only be ten (nearly eleven) but she’s not stupid. She doesn’t know what will happen if people find out she’s alone, but she’s pretty sure it won’t be good.

Rae knows how to look after herself; she and Splints will just carry on as usual. Life with mum has taught her it’s important to fly under the radar, to keep the house and yard neat, keep herself clean and neat and fed, not to do anything to draw attention, to act normal: “Then I went to school. I slipped Schoolkid on like a jumper, without thinking.”

For now, she has mum’s debit card, she knows the bank passwords, she can shop and cook and wash and take care of Splinter. Bleach and oil burners and air fresheners will do the rest.

The nosy old goat next door always seems to be watching from her front porch but, apart from a few comments, seems happy to keep to herself. Oscar Geddes, though, could be a problem. The boy lives just down the street, he’s clearly lonely and he’s too interested, too persistent. And his mum’s a busybody.

Staying at home nights and weekends is both boring and unpleasant, so she and Splinter walk a lot, all over Melbourne. She helps herself to some things that will make the house look normal; a few close calls see Rae exercising more caution, but it’s working, for now. Rae knows she’ll have to face the awful truth eventually.

Then one day, she has to help the old goat (Lettie) out from a bad spot; Rae keeps helping, and they cover for each other. But Rae is wary of getting too close…

It truly is hard to believe this is a debut novel. Spurr so easily captures her setting, and her portrayal of young Rae is perfect. Her depiction of Rae’s feelings is often inspired: her anxiety “The chest -rat starts trying to push its way out. I fight with it till I can get a breath”; her confusion “I didn’t used to be a counter, … but I’ve found it helps when I’ve got a head full of bees.”

Rae’s first-person narrative, addressed to her absent mother, spans fifty-five days of her young life after the unthinkable has happened. Spurr gives the reader a smart and surprisingly mature protagonist who can’t help but capture even the hardest heart. As capable as Rae is, though, there are still moments when a girl really needs her mum, and some of these will likely exercise the tear ducts.

There is plenty of humour, though, some of it quite black, both in situation and dialogue, which is often sharp, witty, funny:
“‘You’re all right, kiddo.’
‘It’s Rae.’ I remind her.
She pulls a face. ‘I know that. I was being nice. It’s a nickname. A term of endearment.’
‘Oh. Okay .’ I wonder if I should reciprocate. What do you say to an old lady who likes to refer to you as a baby goat? ‘Thanks. Goat-o.’”
This is a tale that will have you laughing out loud one minute and choking up with emotion the next: an utterly brilliant read.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Text Publishing.
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Reading Progress

March 9, 2021 – Started Reading
March 9, 2021 – Shelved
March 9, 2021 –
page 0
0.0% "wow, loving this so far"
March 10, 2021 –
March 10, 2021 –
March 10, 2021 – Finished Reading
June 5, 2021 – Started Reading (Audiobook Edition)
June 5, 2021 – Shelved (Audiobook Edition)
June 6, 2021 –
67.0% (Audiobook Edition)
June 7, 2021 –
100.0% (Audiobook Edition)
June 7, 2021 – Finished Reading (Audiobook Edition)

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Suz (new) - added it

Suz Thanks for the rec, Book Whisperer, it looks wonderful! And look at the endorsements from some great Aussie authors on Text's review!

Jülie ☼♄  Great review Marianne! We are so spoiled for choice with wonderful Aussie authors aren’t we? Another one fir my burgeoning tbr 😅

Marianne I hope you both enjoy it as much as I did!

Carolyn fab review Marianne. Just finished this and loved it, especially the old goat!

PattyMacDotComma Sounds good and even better, sounds like a new Aussie author to follow and encourage!

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