Meredith Maggs has not left her home in 1,214 days and she is very comfortable with that being her reality. This is where we find our unlikely heroine at the start of Claire Alexander’s novel Meredith, Alone, invited into Meredith’s intricate story. Through flashbacks and observations, we are shown a beautifully controlled existence and what leads an intelligent and kind woman to become a person unable to step foot outside the world she has built for herself.
Meredith is a profoundly likable protagonist, she has her complexities and her trauma, yet she never stops appreciating the light and joys in her life and continues to do the work to better herself as her story unfolds. We are introduced to the people in her life in her present day, as well as in her flashbacks. Her best friend, Sadie, a single mom of two who does not give up on hope and love. Tom, a charity appointed volunteer sent to check on her well-being and provide companionship. Celeste, a woman she meets by chance in a chat room for people with anxiety and depression due to past traumas. And her family, particularly her mother and older sister Fiona, who have obstacles of their own.
Alexander’s novel feels relatable in our post pandemic world. Like many of us, Meredith finds beauty and comfort in her life at home and fills her time with baking, reading and chatting with her ginger cat, Fred. But Meredith is haunted, the beautiful memories and connections we see her making are darkened by the past abuses she has suffered and it is revealed to the reader that perhaps Meredith does not have the handle on her life that she wishes.
As Meredith attempts to overcome her fears and embrace a life outside of her home, we see flashes of her past with her abusive mother, a codependency with her sister Fiona while loathing her husband, and a lingering sadness for a father who disappeared from her life. Meredith’s story is not simple and the more she unpacks, the clearer that becomes. Ultimately, her path comes down to recognizing the emotional weight we hold inside ourselves and whether or not we choose to sink with it.
Meredith, Alone is intelligent and respectful in how it discusses mental health, abuse, sexual assault and growing in the shadow of trauma. The story is filled with flawed and beautiful characters who you genuinely root for as they engage with one another and delve honestly into their respective delights and losses. Though you want Meredith to overcome her fears and open her door to the world, you can’t blame her for wanting to stay in her comfortable life. Alexander has made a world that feels safe and welcoming, one that you can’t help but miss when Meredith’s story is over.
Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander is out now and available for purchase at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.