Countless – Karen Gregory

I won a copy of Countless in a GoodReads giveaway, and then promptly forgot that I had ever entered said giveaway. So when the book arrived in the post, I had a very intriguing hour wondering what it could possibly be, and even tweeted about it a few times.

Beyond that excitement of opening the actual parcel, I was very much looking forward to reading this book. The story of Hedda and her battle with Nia was one that I thought I would really love. And I was not at all wrong.

Countless – Karen Gregory

‘Is there anything that’s concerning you?’ Felicity says. ‘College, home, boyfriends?’ Though she’s more or less smiling at this last one.

I don’t smile. Instead, I feel my face go hot. Silence stretches as wide as an ocean.
When I look up, Felicity has this expression on her face like she’s just seen Elvis. Slowly, she leans forward and in a gentle voice I’ve never heard her use before she says, ‘Have you done a pregnancy test?’

When Hedda discovers she is pregnant, she doesn’t believe she could ever look after a baby. The numbers just don’t add up. She is young, and still in the grip of an eating disorder that controls every aspect of how she goes about her daily life. She’s even given her eating disorder a name – Nia. But as the days tick by, Hedda comes to a decision: she and Nia will call a truce, just until the baby is born. 17 weeks, 119 days, 357 meals. She can do it, if she takes it one day at a time …

Heartbreaking and hopeful by turns, Karen Gregory’s debut novel is a story of love, heartache and human resilience. And how the things that matter most can’t be counted. Perfect for fans of Lisa Williamson, Non Pratt and Sarah Crossan.

This book was phenomenal. Although I carted it around in my handbag for over a week before I actually opened it up and started reading, once I read the first page, from there on it was less than 24 hours until I turned the final one, and I was bereft to think that I was finished already. Karen Gregory paints a world which is so viscerally, terrifyingly real that I was absolutely hooked, from the first page to the last.

Hedda is seventeen, living on her own, and engaged in daily interaction with Nia – her own personal companion in every step of her life. This is then complicated by the fact that Hedda realises she’s pregnant. Torn between conceding to Nia and nurturing the life inside her, Hedda strikes a truce with Nia, that she will keep going just until the baby is born, and then return to her primary focus in life.

34299826Every page of this book was delicately drawn, tackling the incredibly tough twin issues of pregnancy and motherhood and Hedda’s eating disorder. It was so incredibly real, visceral, but heartbreakingly understandable. Hedda is only seventeen, still a child, and caught in the grip of something she doesn’t really understand, which has been shaping her life since she was in primary school.

This book is a love story, but not so much about Hedda falling in love with anyone else as about learning to love herself. There was so much of it that felt incredibly real, and I adored every step of her journey. There’s so much that I feel like I could say about this, but none of it would do justice to how delicately and sympathetically Karen Gregory portrays Hedda’s journey – all back and forth of every step of it.

When I was still living in Ireland, I read Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson, and it was so powerfully drawn that it actually scared me. But at the same time, that felt a step removed, and somewhat detached. Countless never scared me, only filled me with empathy and fear and longing for this girl Hedda, who’s trying to do something bigger than herself. Her journey of self-discovery and acknowledging her demons, her Nia, is so very real I struggle to find the words to talk about it.

On finishing this book, I actually put it down and just sat and thought for a while, which is something I never do. Very powerful, very moving, but not gory or disturbing, this book was really, truly excellent.

Five Stars
*****

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5 responses to “Countless – Karen Gregory

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