Thursday 18 March 2021

Everything Happens for a Reason - Katie Allen


When Rachel’s baby is stillborn, she becomes obsessed with the idea that saving a stranger’s life months earlier is to blame. An unforgettable, heart-wrenching, warm and funny debut.


Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong. Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave without a baby, trying to make sense of her loss.

When a misguided well-wisher tells her that “everything happens for a reason”, she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and she’s now certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son.

Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, Josephine, and eventually tracks him down, with completely unexpected results... Both a heart-wrenchingly poignant portrait of grief and a gloriously uplifting and disarmingly funny story of a young woman’s determination, Everything Happens for a Reason is a bittersweet, life-affirming read and, quite simply, unforgettable.

What did I think?

Oh my goodness, where do I start?  What a beautiful, completely unique book.  Katie Allen's debut novel is poignant, incredibly personal and surprisingly funny.  I absolutely loved it and the synopsis is right: it is completely unforgettable.

Rachel suffers a most terrible loss when she gives birth to her stillborn son, Luke.  Perhaps the worst thing that anyone can say to someone who is grieving is 'everything happens for a reason' but Rachel takes this comment literally and tries to find the reason that Luke died.  Rachel believes that saving the life of a man who was about to jump in front of a train was the reason that her son died and this man lived.  Through dogged determination, we follow Rachel's journey as she searches for the mystery man and makes life-long friends along the way.

The format of the book is very special indeed; I actually didn't realise what I was reading in the first few pages and when it hit me I thought my heart would break.  Although it is such a terribly sad subject, especially as the author has first hand knowledge of stillbirth, the whole feel of the book is surprisingly warm and funny.  It feels as if the process of writing her thoughts, feelings and actions is incredibly cathartic for Rachel and, although Luke is never far from her mind, having such a massive project on the go does help take her mind off her loss.

I've often considered how highly sensitive we become when something bad happens to us.  It seems like everyone is so insensitive but I've often wondered if that is because we are so over-sensitive at that particular moment in time.  Rachel has lost her baby and it seems like every way she turns she sees babies; everything reminds her of Luke and the fact that he is not here.  I'm not saying that there aren't insensitive people out there, comments like 'everything happens for a reason' and 'life goes on' prove that people often don't think before they speak, but you don't want others to put their life on hold because you are sad.  It reminded me to be more sensitive to people's feelings and that just being there for someone and saying nothing is better than saying something inappropriate.  Actions really do speak louder than words.

Everything Happens for a Reason is heartrending, honest and humourous; I've never read anything like it before.  So thought-provoking and poignant, it's a completely wonderful debut and highly recommended reading.

Many thanks to Orenda Books for sending me an ARC of this wonderful book; all opinions are my own.

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