Countless by Karen Gregory

I inhaled this book. I was emotionally involved from the very start and couldn’t bear to put it down. 

‘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.’

I have no experience of eating disorders so I can’t speak to how truthful the depiction is. But I can say that it feels immensely, painfully, believable. And that is because Karen Gregory has experienced it and has created such vivid, rounded characters that it’s impossible not to identify with them and root for them to succeed.

I feel like I’ve had a real insight into how it might feel to have an eating disorder or to care for someone who does; that I have learned from this book. And that is the special magic of books. They can open a window into lives and experiences outside of our own bubble, they can show us what it is like and help us become more understanding and empathetic people. 

Countless has heart and warmth and humour but above all it is honest. It doesn’t try to sugarcoat or glamourise any of the issues raised or situations the characters find themselves in. Gregory shines a hard light at our damaged welfare system and at the prejudices people have developed. But she also highlights and celebrates the individuals who are working tirelessly to make a difference from inside a broken system. And it feels ultimately hopeful.

The parts of the book that chimed with me personally were the struggles with parenting and the sensitively handled look at post natal depression. Countless shows how having a child and being responsible for another human being changes you and makes you reassess everything. Hedda’s reflecting on her relationship with her parents and her struggle to form relationships of any kind rang true. There is a beautiful moment when Hedda meets another struggling new mother, Lois. I was shouting at the book to say ‘her! Pick her as your person!’. Because although Countless is heartbreaking it is also full of heart and it celebrates the power of finding your people and your self and the resilience to keep going.

It’s a stunner!

You can get your copy here.

Source – kindly provided for review by the publisher 

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