A Million Things by Emily Spurr

A Million Things


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 shop and cook a little and take care of Splints 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, the old woman 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 based on secrets last?

A Million Things is a tender, funny, and heartbreaking story of how we cope with grief.

My thoughts

The story covers 55 days in the life of 10 year old Rae after her mother leaves her alone to fend for herself. Rae knows what will happen if the authorities find out she is alone, so for 55 heart rending days she desperately conceals her mother’s absence from friends, teachers, and well-meaning neighbours while trying to cope with something no 10 year old should ever have to. The only company Rae has is her dog, Splinter. The only person she can rely on is herself. Until her path crosses that of her cantankerous old neighbour, Lettie, who has her own reasons for keeping authorities away. An odd uneasy alliance forms as they each cover for the other in order to protect themselves. Inevitably secrets start being uncovered and Rae feels the day of reckoning drawing ever closer and I found myself feeling her panic and fear right along with her. The suspense is palpable as her life starts to unspool. Rae and Lettie are fantastic characters and this story is utterly heartbreaking in places. I am going to include a bit of a spoiler right here because I was so upset at one point that I want to spare others – the dog survives! This was an emotionally draining read but well worth the tears I shed.

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