What’s it all about?:
Our memories are what make us who we are. Some are real. Some are made up. But they are the stories that tell us who we are. Without them we are nobody.
Hattie’s summer isn’t going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to ‘find himself” and Kat is in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum’s wedding. Oh, and she’s also just discovered that she’s pregnant with Reuben’s baby.
Then Gloria, Hattie’s great-aunt who no one even knew existed, comes crashing into her life. Gloria’s fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery — Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are erased from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.
Non Pratt’s Trouble meets Thelma and Louise with a touch of Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, Clare Furniss’ remarkable How Not To Disappear is an emotional rollercoaster of a novel that will make you laugh and break your heart.
What did I think?:
This review comes with a big thank you to my wonderful sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads for recommending this book as part of my most recent Chrissi Cupboard Month, a bi-annual event where I attempt to get through some of the huge pile of books she has loaned me! I was first compelled to read this novel after being initially attracted by the front cover. Now I don’t normally like “people” on covers but for some reason, I find this one really appealing, there’s something about the colours and the attitude of the woman on the front that makes me smile. Then I read the synopsis and when I realised it touched on the subject of dementia, it was a no-brainer that I had to read it. Dementia is a topic really close to my heart for personal reasons, it’s probably my worst fear of getting older and I was completely right in thinking this would be a touching, emotionally poignant exploration of what it’s like to suffer from it.
Clare Furniss, author of How Not To Disappear.
This is the story of a young woman called Hattie who finds herself unsure about her future path in life, exasperated with her siblings, mother and stepfather and abandoned by her best friends whom it seems, have moved so far away (Edinburgh and Europe) that keeping in touch via email and the occasional text is the best form of contact she can hope for. Worst of all, she now finds herself pregnant with her friend Reuben’s baby and completely stuck as what to do as it seems unlikely Reuben would be willing to settle down. Surprisingly, Hattie then finds herself in contact with an old relative on her late father’s side, Gloria who also finds herself alone, troubled and in need of a friend. Gloria suffers with dementia and whilst her memories are starting to fail her she is determined to travel the length and breadth of the country with Hattie in tow in order to tell her story and make sense of a shattered past. As the two women travel and get to know each other, Hattie might just find the comfort and answers she desperately desires and Gloria may finally find peace along the way.
Hattie and Gloria go on a road trip across parts of the U.K. as we get flashbacks from Gloria’s past.
This book really knew just how to tug on your heart-strings. The dementia is obviously a huge part of the story and it’s absolutely gut wrenching to see how Gloria deteriorates, even in the short time that Hattie has with her but I also found it all so life affirming if that makes any sense? Gloria writes down everything in her little notebook, including tid-bits that Hattie shares with her about her own life and her problems regarding the pregnancy (in that she doesn’t know HOW to feel about it). It really warmed my heart the lengths Gloria went to and how hard she concentrated on trying to get to know Hattie better by any means necessary despite the failures in her own brain. One of my favourite things about this story just has to be Gloria as a character however, she was quite simply wonderful in every aspect of the word. From a very young age, she’s independent, says what she thinks and has a bright spark of a personality that refuses to be tamed. She goes through so much in her life, huge events that attempt to dampen that spark and sadly, they kind of succeed in one way but in another way, you can still see that old Gloria in there, refusing to lie down and be silenced. That just broke my heart.
This is a work of young adult fiction but to be perfectly honest, at no time when I was reading it did it feel that way for me. It delves into some very dark, difficult areas including teenage pregnancy, mental illness, domestic violence and emotional abuse and the intricacies of family relationships and these were all subjects that were handled so sensitively and intelligently that I constantly wanted to read on and uncover the mystery of Gloria’s life. This is a novel that has so much heart and soul emanating from every page and although it made for some tough, bitter-sweet reading moments at points, I’m ever so glad I read it and will certainly be watching out for anything Clare Furniss writes in the future.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss was the thirty-ninth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!