Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Book Review: Everything Happens for a Reason

By Becky Gulc

‘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...’ (Synopsis courtesy of Simon & Schuster UK)

I sought out this novel after seeing recommendations on social media giving it high praise. Everything Happens for a Reason is a book based on profound loss and constitutes a year’s worth of emails from Rachel to her son Luke who was stillborn. 

This is a wonderful book that, whilst being based on such a sad event, manages to be hopeful, funny and concerning as we learn of Rachel’s year of maternity leave with no baby to care for. The grief is profound, the observations and frustrations of grief, of how everyone manages grief differently, how it’s so easy to say the wrong thing; everything is so well elocuted through Rachel and her family and friends. I didn’t know when I started this book that the book is loosely based on Katie’s own experience of a stillbirth, but it didn’t surprise me when I learnt this; it’s written with experience.  I felt Rachel’s isolation with her grief, I was pleased she could share her life with Luke via email at times when she was unable to share her life and true feelings with those closest to her. 

I enjoyed the story of trying to find a ‘reason’ for what happened through tracking down the man Rachel had saved, the day she had found out she was pregnant. Rachel convinces herself there must be a reason why this man survived but Luke didn’t and she’s determined to find out why. The mismatch of the two brings some comical and frustrating moments but I enjoyed their relationship very much, even though both could be very annoying at times! I also loved the relationship between Rachel and Josephine, the young girl Rachel soon finds herself looking after on a regular basis. 

The book works well with the story being told in a series of emails. There were no chapters, which was different, and it was so easy to just keep going as the ‘emails’ were never too long but you still got a full sense of Rachel’s days. I did wonder how the book would conclude and would just say that whilst the grief undoubtedly continues, I was satisfied with how everything was tied up at the end. 

This is a moving, poignant book that I’ll remember for a long time. 

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