Meredith Alone - Reviewed by Fiona Robinson | Regional News Connecting Wellington

Meredith Alone

Written by: Claire Alexander

Penguin Books

Reviewed by: Fiona Robinson

This a charming book with a sweet main character who you’ll want to triumph and be happy by conquering her fears. It’s also desperately sad in places.

Meredith hasn’t left her house in three years after having a panic attack one day as she got ready for work. There are deeper reasons though for Meredith staying within the safety of her four walls, and these are gradually revealed as the plot gently unfolds. We start to understand how Meredith became a recluse as we get glimpses of a tough childhood, a self-absorbed mother, and a strong older sister who was Meredith’s biggest supporter – until she wasn’t.

We are also welcomed into the life she shares with her beloved rescue cat Fred and old school friend Sadie. A life where time goes slowly and is dedicated to working remotely as a writer, baking, jigsaw puzzles, and exercising by running up and down the stairs.

While the plot takes its time, it definitely pulls the reader in and ratchets up the tension and Meredith’s inner conflict at times, as she experiences panic attacks and deep-seated anxiety triggered by a traumatic experience.

It’s the characters that ultimately make this a book you want to keep reading and remember long after you’ve read the final page. All of the key characters are well rounded, and all have their challenges – some aren’t even very likeable. Meredith is beautifully written, and as a result she is the one we really connect with as readers and have great empathy for. We cheer her on as she grows her connections with the outside world, including her new friend Thomas, and want her so badly to take that first courageous step beyond her front door. Thomas is also likeable, as is Sadie and Meredith’s sister Fi – although as a reader, I felt let down by a late plot twist involving Fi.

Overall, this is a moving and uplifting book that will fill you with compassion and understanding for people in Meredith’s situation. It was a bit of a departure from the type of book I would usually go for, but I recommend it.

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