Meredith, Alone

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Claire Alexander, due out November 2022

What an engrossing, very readable story. I couldn’t put it down.

Meredith has not left her Glasgow home in over 1800 days. She has her routines: exercise, housework, baking, cooking, personal hygiene, the care and maintenance of Fred the cat. No sweatpants and hoodies for Meredith; she dresses as if she is going out, and she really is trying. She sees her therapist Diane via Zoom once a month, and she dutifully follows through on the Diane’s prescribed homework. She’s an admirable woman, approaching her 40th birthday.

Alone though? Alone is no phone calls, no texts, no visitors, no dinner guests, no one to bake scones for, no Christmas or birthday cards, no giving or receiving of gifts – and it has nothing to do with being housebound. Meredith is damaged, but she is hardly ever alone; she has a small but supportive and loyal social network and is making new friends even as she heals.

So why is Meredith housebound? Are her panic attacks and self-enforced house arrest tied to a specific recent incident, or is her agoraphobia more deeply rooted in the years of verbal abuse suffered at the hands of her mother? For over 35 years “Mama” has belittled Meredith and Fiona like it’s her job, the older woman’s breath stinking of cigarette smoke and wine, so one could understand her poisonous influence on Meredith’s psyche.

Through present-day first-person narrative, skillfully interspersed with snapshots of Meredith’s life from the time she was a small child, Claire Alexander allows Meredith’s journey of pain, and hopefully recovery, to reveal itself organically and believably. Strongly character-driven, Meredith’s story is documented with precision and warmth.

Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for a non-final ARC of this book. I used it to write my honest review.

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