For better or for worse, life can change in a matter of seconds. People take their first and last breaths. Cars crash, planes plunge into oceans. The healing process after decades of hurt can begin with a simple gesture.
Or a question: ‘Are you all right?’
When we meet Meredith, she hasn’t left her home for 1,214 days. Fred, her cat, is her constant companion. Her only visitors are the Tesco delivery man, Sadie (her best friend) and Sadie’s kids, James and Matilda. Meredith spends a lot of her time working on jigsaw puzzles.
I’ve been collecting boxes filled with places I’ll never go – works of art I’ll never see.
Meredith doesn’t have any contact with her mother or Fiona (Fee), her older sister. It’s complicated.
On day 1,215, Meredith meets Tom from Holding Hands.
On day 1,219, Meredith meets Celeste, AKA, CATLADY29.
My life is divided into before and after, and the before remains out of my grasp.
Over the course of just over 300 days, the puzzle pieces of how Meredith’s before became her after come together.
I binged this book in a day and enjoyed getting to know Meredith and the people who found their way to her front door. What struck me most was how vital the people around Meredith were to her, giving her the connections she needed and the safety to both confront her past and grow beyond her limitations.
A lot of social issues are explored in this book, many of which have the potential to be quite confronting. While their inclusion made sense in the context of the story and individual characters, some deserved more page time.
While I spent the book cheering Meredith on, sometimes her wins felt like they came too easy. Yes, she did work hard to achieve everything she did. Considering what her life looked like when we met her, though, I would have expected her recovery to be more two steps forward, one step back than it was, over a longer period of time.
Meredith can cook for me anytime she’d like.
I love when books teach me new concepts. Oubaitori comes from kanji for four trees that bloom in spring: cherry blossoms, plum, peach, and apricot.
While each blossom looks similar, they bloom differently, with varying shapes and smells. Oubaitori applies this concept to people.
In Japanese philosophy it’s the art of never comparing yourself to others, but recognizing value in your own unique character.
Content warnings include attempted suicide, domestic abuse, eating disorder, mental health, miscarriage, self harm, sexual assault, stillbirth and suicidal ideation.
Once Upon a Blurb
Meredith Maggs hasn’t left her house in 1,214 days. But she insists she isn’t alone…
She has her cat Fred. Her friend Sadie visits when she can. There’s her online support group, StrengthInNumbers. She has her jigsaws, favourite recipes, her beloved Emily Dickinson, the internet, the Tesco delivery man and her treacherous memories for company.
But something’s about to change.
Whether Meredith likes it or not, the world is coming to her door… Does she have the courage to overcome what’s been keeping her inside all this time?