She Hasn’t Left Home for 1214 Days
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As the book opens, it is Wednesday, November 14, 2018. This first chapter contains exactly one sentence. This is it: “My name is Meredith Maggs and I haven’t left my home for 1214 days.”
Readers will note that future chapters give the date and the number of days Meredith has been housebound and that the book follows her for almost a year, until day 1516. There are also chapters that take us back in time to give us Meredith’s history. The first one goes to 1993 when Meredith is 14. Doing the math, she is 39 as the book opens.
Of course, we wonder what has happened to cause her inability to go out into the world. However, please know she is not totally isolated. She has a job that she does remotely. She has a best friend, Sadie, who visits, often bringing along her two small children. Meredith talks with people in an online chatroom and makes friends with one, Celeste, who lives nearby in Glasgow. She also receives visits from a man named Tom who is with a “befriending charity” called Holding Hands. Two more key players are the therapist she talks to via zoom and her cat – a gift from Sadie – named Fred.
If you are wondering about Meredith’s family, she has one – a sister named Fiona and a mom. Fee is the older of the two girls, by eighteen months. In the chapters that go back to their childhood, we see that Meredith and Fee were always very close as they bonded together in the face of the abusive childhood provided by their single mother. The dad has been out of the picture for so long, Meredith barely has a memory of him. It appears, however, that something life changing has happened between the sisters and it started at about the same time as Meredith’s self-isolation.
What happened between them? Can it be fixed? These are the major questions. And of course, we need to know, will Meredith be able to leave her home by book’s end?
If you read, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, you will feel similarly toward Meredith as you did toward Eleanor. Both are harmless people who have been greatly harmed by the world. In both cases, I wondered if “completely fine” was ever an option while I hoped they’d at least make it to “well enough and functional.”
It is interesting to note that in an interview with the author, Claire Alexander said she had started writing this book before the pandemic and before its lockdown. But now, having all experienced that, we can easily identify with Meredith and her day-to-day life of jigsaw puzzles, baking, and zoom conferences. Indeed, we are even more eager for her ability to leave the house again than we might have been otherwise.