My thanks to Anne Cater and the Orenda for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. I received an ebook to read ahead of time, and this review forms my honest opinion.
Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong. Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave without a baby, trying to make sense of her loss. When a misguided well-wisher tells her that ‘everything happens for a reason’, she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and she’s now certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son. Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, and eventually tracks him down, with completely unexpected results…
Both a heart-wrenching portrait of grief and a gloriously uplifting and disarmingly funny story of a young woman’s determination, Everything Happens for a Reason is a bittersweet, life-affirming and, quite simply, unforgettable read.
Last night I shared a Tweet that I didn’t think I’d be able to keep awake and finish the last few pages of this book (12 hours of glossing left me barely able to function in the land of the awake) however, I underestimated the engrossing charm of Everything Happens for a Reason.
An entirely unique narrative formed of emails from Rachel Summers to Luke, her recently stillborn child are beautifully effective in conveying events. Every time something not so peachy happens in my life, my Mum wheels out the phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’ and I completely understood Rachel’s preoccupation with finding reason for the senseless death of her son. Whilst only a shade of what Rachel’s is dealing with, a miscarriage sent me off the rails. The lack of control over my own life, the feeling of utter uselessness was overwhelming to me and that phrase led me to spend money I didn’t really have on mediums I didn’t really believe in, desperately trying to make some sort of connection. To find reason. While to the outside world I was probably acting normal-ish (because of the pre-12 weeks secret, the cruelest of deadlines because it makes you feel you have no right to fall apart) I was spiraling. Grief does funny things to you – but I found nothing unusual in Rachel’s quest to locate Ben. What I saw was a Mother coping in the way she had to.
Unusual because of the tragic nature of the story, but as Rachel retells events to Luke in her warm and witty manner I found myself amused, at times inwardly laughing. This was not the depressing read I was expecting. Instead it’s charming, almost hypnotic – one email leading to the next and the next so that before you realise it your coffee is cold and your bum is numb on a wooden chair you only meant to perch on for five minutes!
But between the witty emails lies the truth behind the situation. Whether between the lines or explicitly stated, Rachel’s emotions are laid naked, as is the impact on her as a woman, on her relationship with her husband, her family and her friends. Her honesty is disarming so that I took her entirely into my heart and felt her pain. For me, the baby shower scenes were the most raw and made me want to weep for her. I felt so protective of her that I wanted to rip my way into the pages and pull her out. It’s a rare character that makes me feel so deeply, but I went through every emotion with Rachel. Sadness, anger, love, joy. She grabbed me from the first email and didn’t let go.
Everything Happens for a Reason has been one of the most unusual and yet heartwarming books I’ve read this year. With its strange, quirky turn of events led by Rachel, a character I won’t forget easily, nor will I forget the supporting characters; lovely Lola and her incredible daughter, Josephine, the mysterious Ben and even Francis the dog. It is beautifully written, love and care vibrates through every word, every character, and I’ve loved every second of it. I highly, highly recommend.
About the Author
Everything Happens for a Reason is Katie’s first novel. She used to be a journalist and columnist at the Guardian and Observer, and started her career as a Reuters correspondent in Berlin and London. The events in Everything Happens for a Reason are fiction, but the premise is loosely autobiographical. Katie’s son, Finn, was stillborn in 2010, and her character’s experience of grief and being on maternity leave without a baby is based on her own. And yes, someone did say to her ‘Everything happens for a reason’.
Katie grew up in Warwickshire and now lives in South London with her husband, children, dog, cat and stick insects. When she’s not writing or walking children and dogs, Katie loves baking, playing the piano, reading news and wishing she had written other people’s brilliant novels.