A bursting, heartfelt, debut following fifty-five days in the life of ten-year-old Rae, who must look after herself and her dog when her mother disappears.
For as long as Rae can remember, it’s been her and Mum, and their dog, Splinter; a small, deliberately unremarkable, family. They have their walks, their cooking routines, their home. Sometimes Mum disappears for a while to clear her head but Rae is okay with this, because Mum always comes back.
So, when Rae wakes to Splinter’s nose in her face, the back door open, and no Mum, she does as she’s always done and carries on. She takes care of the house, goes to school, walks Splinter, and minds her own business—all the while pushing down the truth she isn’t ready to face.
That is, until her grumpy, lonely neighbor Lettie—with her own secrets and sadness—falls one night and needs Rae’s help. As the two begin to rely on each other, Rae’s anxiety intensifies as she wonders what will happen to her when her mother’s absence is finally noticed and her fragile world bursts open.
A Million Things transforms a gut-wrenching story of abandonment and what it’s like to grow up in a house that doesn’t feel safe into an astonishing portrait of resilience, mental health, and the families we make and how they make us in return.
This book begins with an emotional bombshell that leaves a ten-year-old girl named Rae standing in the crumbling debris. She’s far stronger and wiser than she should ever be at such a tender age. But in her heart, she’s just a child who longs for the warmth of a mother.
Sometimes I’d flip through the fat blue dictionary, looking for the right word for it, the feeling inside. Agitated was almost right, but it didn’t quite fit. It matched the chill of the tiny bubbles popping in my chest but not the stillness. Aimless felt close: floaty. I floated, but I always had something to do. When it was summer we’d go outside and I’d cut the grass. Or weed the veggie patch you liked in theory. And sometimes we’d just lie in the sun, Splinter’s big head on my lap, and I’d watch the swirling red behind my eyelids. I guess I was ambivalent. But that wasn’t right either because it hurt, you being gone. I never did find the right word.
Rae strikes up a unique friendship with an elderly neighbour. Both are broken and flawed in ways that no one else could ever understand. Yet together, they manage to find shelter from the cold world outside. Because reality is slowly creeping in and with it comes the terrible knowledge that nothing will ever be the same again.
“Heard you got into some trouble.”
In A Million Things, Emily Spurr masterfully paints a perilous world through the eyes of a child. With a deep mix of sorrow and determination, she creates a landscape where family is lost and found. A place where being left behind both obliterates and strengthens.
It's a story that demands to be felt and I absolutely did. Right down to my bones…
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