The Five Things

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“The Five Things” is an evocative, gentle book that wraps you up and pulls you into its beguiling world.

We first meet Wendy, the main protagonist and our narrator, when she is a young child, aged around nine, living in the South of England in a small coastal village. With her three best friends – Anna, Naomi, Sam – along with several other village children, Wendy initially appears to have a blissful childhood, particularly during the long summer months when the entire troupe is free to roam and explore the village fields and seaside.

“The summers always seemed long and hot and were a time wen we were left alone to dream and live as if in another kind of world. There was no structure.”

With a diary-like format that is eerily authentic and deeply reminiscent, we live with Wendy, a charming and compassionate child, seeing her world as clearly as if we were nine-year old girls along with her.

Without revealing too much, (no spoilers here), in a single moment in the summer of 1969 Wendy’s life is forever altered by a shattering event.

“I felt as if someone had built a wall in my head, and I could only think in the very small space inside the brickwork.”

This event, the loss of innocence that follows and the uncertainties surrounding it, lead Wendy and her young friends to psychological deflections, unable to process or understand the event directly. Eventually, as a team, they identify “five things” they feel must be answered to allow them to reconcile the terrible trauma. For Wendy, the quest for this reconciliation slips and intertwines into the very fabric of her life – that summer and beyond.

With seamless ease, the author shifts focus from childhood and allows us to eavesdrop on Wendy in several more time frames, – as a teenager, middle-aged, and finally an elderly woman. In each case, Wendy’s life unfolds quietly, outwardly ordinary and consumed with the everyday happenings of a life simply lived. Underneath it all, we cannot help but recognize the subtle thematic cues of a soul still in search of ultimate answers.

As Wendy gradually comes to recognize the truth behind that early tragedy, we learn, along with her, how easy it is to become confused by outward appearances, how fragile and vulnerable every single one of us can truly be, and how briefly and fleetingly the glimpses into a beating human heart can be made available for us to connect to.

A big thank you to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.


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