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BookBrowse Reviews A Million Things by Emily Spurr

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A Million Things

by Emily Spurr

A Million Things by Emily Spurr X
A Million Things by Emily Spurr
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    Aug 2021, 304 pages

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An intense, atmospheric work of fiction about love, grief and resilience.

Voted 2021 Best Debut Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

Our First Impressions reviewers were intrigued and captivated by Emily Spurr's debut novel A Million Things, awarding it an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

What the book is about:

This is a delightfully sad story about a 10-year-old girl (Rae), a dog (Splinter) and a hoarding old lady (Lettie) who lives next door. The resiliency of all three of them is what keeps this book interesting and from turning maudlin. Rae's mother disappears but Rae is used to being on her own, and carries on, taking care of herself and Splinter. When Lettie falls and needs Rae's help the storyline takes its most interesting turn. Watching Rae, Lettie and Splinter form their own family is the crux of the book. And, as with all families, there are ups and downs, yet they keep going (Mary S).

Reviewers were drawn in by the characters' lovable and compelling qualities.

I fell hard for Rae, the protagonist in this novel. What a strong, smart, scrappy, vulnerable and resourceful little girl. The relationship that develops between Rae and Lettie, the neighbor with a hoarding tendency, added such depth. Every character in this book, from Rae's teacher, Mrs. Pham, to Oscar, the boy down the street, lends something important to move the story along (Jennie R). The character development of the quirky people who live in this neighborhood is great. They are all very believable; they are compelling (Susan W). I won't soon forget narrator Rae, her neighbor Lettie or her sweet beast of a dog Splinter. But the nameless mother is also an interesting character, more so because she develops in the literary equivalent of negative space (Ann B).

They also appreciated the book's sensitive exploration of mental health issues.

I appreciate the light the author shines on mental health without being preachy (Susan W). Lettie and Rae's relationship, based on their shared experiences, will be eye-opening to those who have been blessed not to have to deal with mental health issues (Jo S).

Some felt that the plot took a while to pick up, and warned that details are revealed slowly.

It got a little bogged down and wordy in the beginning but then was hard to put down until I learned the outcome (Mary Jane D). The pacing was a bit slow at first, but I was captivated once Lettie and Rae began communicating in earnest (Kathy).

However, others enjoyed the author's lingering focus on the world of the story.

This book demands at least two readings. First Reading: Enjoy the story of a resilient little girl, a scruffy dog, a cranky old woman and a remarkable friendship. Second Reading: Slow down, stroll leisurely through the sensuous soundscape, filled with vivid imagery (Kathryn S). I found the writing to be beautifully evocative, especially as Rae describes the sights, smells and feel of her everyday life (Nancy L).

Despite the book's sad premise, readers ultimately found A Million Things hopeful and inspiring.

Emily Spurr explores grief and loneliness without melodrama, leaving room for hope and happiness (Karen B). This book! It will break your heart and put it back together again. Rae is a character you won't soon forget and this story of loss and resilience is a triumph (Danielle M). Rae's story of grief, love and resilience is both heartbreaking and inspiring (Sylvia T).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in September 2021, and has been updated for the December 2021 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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