My ‘book that you got for free’ is “The Possible World” by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz. Thanks to the publisher, Random House UK, and Netgalley for providing me with a digital copy.
First off, I am not going to go into too much detail with the plot of this book because one of the reasons I loved it was the way it unfolded and knitted together. For me, a book which is cared for and thought about and written beautifully is a joy to read, and this one was. I don’t want to ruin it by spilling too much though!
The first chapter is told first person through Ben – a little boy, small for his age and nervous about going to a birthday party with other kids, bigger and meaner than he is. His Mum assures him it’ll be fine and she’ll pick him up in a few hours. The scene is so real, so natural, between the small boys, that I was in the basement with them. As predicted, one of the boys is mean and Ben is so nervous that he goes to the bathroom for something to do. When he comes out, his life is changed forever. (Sorry, cryptic!)
In the meantime, we follow Clare, a centegenerian in a care home who is faintly exasperated with the ‘young ‘uns’ coming in at 70 years old. She only wants to sleep and read, and definitely does not want to make any kind of new friend or relationship at this time of her life. She’s too busy trying to forget the other relationships, at any rate.
Thirdly, we get to be a part of Lucy’s life as she navigates through residency and ‘death month’ – a month of night shifts which means balancing enough sleep in the daylight hours with just enough socialising so that your life is not all work/sleep/enough food to keep you alive. In this section it really becomes clear that O’Halloran Schwarz has a detailed knowledge of medicine and the ER – everything was clearly described and vivid, I could see it all.
As each person’s story unfolds it allows us to see the similarities, and in some cases there are crossovers. Characters pop up in multiple stories as the narrative is knitted together. The themes come out strong and clear: regret, shame, humanity. We are all striving for the same thing – no matter where we live or what we do or how our lives begin and end. Comfort, closeness from other human beings (or cats). Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t – we need to keep moving forward to get to the next section of our journeys.
I really loved this book. I think for a lot of books, your current state of mind makes a difference and I know that I am in exactly the right place, mentally, for this right now. Very rarely do I clamour to keep reading a book and this was the first one in a long time that I couldn’t wait to read at night, at lunch, whenever I could. I even put down my phone for long enough to mean I got some decent reading time before bed! I wholeheartedly recommend it if you’re a fan of time changes, flashbacks, stories with people in the middle of them – Kate Atkinson or Audrey Niffenegger.
Lastly, thank you to Liese O’Halloran Schwarz for writing this with her heart and soul.