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 Shortlisted for the Unpublished Manuscript Prize in the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, this is a story about love, family and letting go.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