A Million Things

Emily Spurr

A Million Things
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A Million Things

Emily Spurr

Rae is ten years old, and she’s tough. She’s had to be: life with her mother has taught her the world is not her friend. Now suddenly her mum is gone and Rae is alone, except for her dog Splinter.

Rae can do a lot of things pretty well for a kid. She can take care of herself and Splints, stay under the radar at school and keep the front yard neat enough that the neighbours won’t get curious. But she is gnawed at by fear and sadness; haunted by the shadow of a terrible secret.

Lettie, who lives next door, might know more about Rae than she lets on. But she has her own reasons for keeping the world at arm’s length. When Rae finds out what they are, it seems like she and Lettie could help each other.

But how long can a friendship last when it’s based on secrets?

Tender, funny, heartbreaking - A Million Things is a story of grief and resilience, told with eloquent simplicity. In brave, spiky Rae, Emily Spurr has created a character you will never forget.

Review

Emily Spurr’s A Million Things is an enthralling, devastating debut. Shortlisted for the Unpublished Manuscript Prize in the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, this is a story about love, family and letting go.

Ten-year-old Rae has a terrible secret – it’s the reason she’s all alone, and the reason she sleeps on the couch at night. Except for her dog, Splinter, Rae has never had anyone really look out for her before. But when Rae inadvertently befriends Lettie, the ‘old goat’ living alone next door, her carefully constructed façade begins to crumble.

The complex, genuine friendship between Lettie and Rae is the absolute soul of this book and prevents it from becoming relentlessly bleak. Spurr brings the reader in on Rae’s secret early on, and so it is there, lurking in the background for the entirety of the novel. Despite this, she has found an elegant balance between the book’s inevitable consequences and the small moments of wonder and care between Rae and Lettie. Like Rae, Lettie struggles to come to terms with past grief and loss, hiding painful memories beneath stacks of hoarded objects. Through their friendship, Spurr explores themes of aging, motherhood and grief with great compassion.

A Million Things recalls books like The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna in its depiction of childhood trauma and neglect. While the voice of Spurr’s protagonist doesn’t come alive with quite the same sparkle as Laguna’s, Rae is spunky and true. Her attempts to stay under the radar in a world she’s been taught to believe doesn’t care are desperately sad. A Million Pieces is a shattering novel that perfectly captures the fractured moments between loss and letting go; between childhood and growing up, in which anything could change once the pieces fall.


Bec Kavanagh works as a bookseller at Readings Kids.

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