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.
I absolutely adored Everything Happens For A Reason. Katie Allen basically blew me away with her wonderful, poignant story of Rachel and her stillborn baby Luke. In fact I’m not sure quite where to start or even if my review will do justice to Allen’s story.
Where I will start is with the title, Everything Happens For A Reason, it’s what my Mum always told me when bad things happen, that I perhaps wouldn’t know the reason until a later date.
For Rachel it was why did her son have to be still born? Was it something she did or didn’t do or was it the fact she stopped a man jumping in front of a tube train, one life saved, her son lost, no space for both.
Whatever it was her journey to discover the why’s was utterly beguiling. Allen’s decision to use Rachel’s emails to baby Luke made the narrative all the more personal, like her every thought no matter how outlandish, impractical or even the chinks of hope were poured out onto the page.
What it did show was the attitude of others towards her loss, husband Ed’s need to work to be away, her mum and mother in laws continual refusal to discuss, to change the subject and friends inappropriate invitations, and ignorance. It was much like a manual of what not to say, what not to do, as Rachel navigated her way through her grief.
Where Allen’s novel really shone was Rachel’s relationship with Lola, her daughter Josephine and Ben the man she saved. Lola, single Mum, Josephine charming, quirky and somewhere Rachel could pour all that maternal love that had nowhere to go. With Ben it was more complicated, this man that loved dogs, hated people, often rude, dismissive. You wondered why Rachel bothered but Allen had a purpose, a reason, I may be wrong but I felt as if Rachel wanted to get to the heart of this man to see if he really was worth saving. What she found was altogether different and in a way she tried to fix him, but we all know it doesn’t always work out and Allen definitely threw in an unexpected curve ball that surprised not only the reader but also Rachel.
It was like a full stop, a stop to the constant whirlwind of thought and emotion, of finally realising that there was nothing she could have done, that the grief would never disappear, but would be something she and her husband had to learn to live with.
Now you would be wrong to think that Allen’s novel was dark and despairing as it most definitely wasn’t. Yes there was grief and sorrow but there was a lightness, humour and an overriding sense of hope. It was made even more special knowing the author had herself suffered a stillbirth, that what you were reading was based on experience. I could not help but admire Allen’s bravery, skill and utter genius in translating her own feelings and emotions into a truly stunning debut novel.
I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of Everything Happens For A Reason to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Everything Happens for a Reason is Katie’s first novel. She used to be a journalist and columnist at the Guardian and Observer, and started her career as a Reuters correspondent in Berlin and London. The events in Everything Happens for a Reason are fiction, but the premise is loosely autobiographical. Katie’s son, Finn, was stillborn in 2010, and her character’s experience of grief and being on maternity leave without a baby is based on her own. And yes, someone did say to her ‘Everything happens for a reason’. Katie grew up in Warwickshire and now lives in South London with her husband, children, dog, cat and stick insects. When she’s not writing or walking children and dogs, Katie loves baking, playing the piano, reading news and wishing she had written other people’s brilliant novels