What a beautiful story. It started to pull me in from the very first page when Amy Ashton is awkwardly mingling with her work colleagues and never let me go until the uplifting conclusion.

Amy is not always an easy protagonist to like. She’s prickly and unfriendly, but what Eleanor Ray very deftly shows us is that there is a reason for this behaviour and Amy wasn’t always like this. Now she’s a hoarder of all manner of things, most of them useless but even if not, who needs that amount of mugs or vases? A new family in the house next door starts to make her rethink the path her life has been on for the past eleven years since something awful and bewildering happened to change it forever.

I’m being deliberately vague as I don’t want to give away what isn’t in the synopsis. I was totally intrigued anyway by the idea of Amy keeping items that reminded her of happier times, but the full story is so much more than that. It’s a heartbreakingly sad and complex story of love and friendship which I found totally unexpected. It brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye but it also made me smile in places. There’s a delightfully quirky edge to Amy and her story, but it’s also completely relatable in so many ways.

I liked the way the author explained the reasons for Amy having numerous cheap cigarette lighters and ashtrays when she’d never smoked, a love for honeysuckle and terracotta pots, and a feeling that every pretty wine bottle should be rescued. It’s a beautiful and clever story about a woman who is out of kilter with the rest of the world. I thought it was absolutely gorgeous, moving and emotional, and a very special debut indeed.

Reviewed by Nicola Smith (Short Book and Scribes)

Piatkus, hardback,
ISBN 978-0349427430, 25th March 2021.