About the Book
Why do we hold onto things we don’t need? And let go of the things we do? Miriam is twenty-nine: temping, living with a flatmate who is no longer a friend, and still trying to find her place in life. She falls in love with Erik after he employs her to clear out his paper-packed home. They are worlds apart: he is forty-five, a successful photographer and artist and an obsessive hoarder still haunted by the end of his marriage. Miriam has an unsuccessful love life and has just got rid of most of her belongings. Somehow, they must find a way to reach each other.
I was thrilled when I was offered a copy of Making Space to review because it sounded like exactly my type of book. Regular readers of my blog will know I love books, both fiction and non-fiction, about dealing with clutter so you can imagine how excited I was about reading this novel!
Making Space is about Miriam and Erik. Miriam is in her late twenties, single and still flat-sharing with her friend from uni. Erik is in his forties and struggles to deal with all the stuff he’s collected to use in his art. His daughter wants to move in with him so he urgently needs to at least clear out a bedroom for her. Miriam is sent to help re-organise Erik’s papers as part of her new office job, and the relationship that builds between these characters is fascinating to read. Both have issues that on the surface seem not at all alike but as we get to know more about these two people it becomes apparent that they have more in common than we see at first.
Erik sees himself as a collector, which is interesting because seeing his house through Miriam’s eyes we know very quickly that he is a hoarder, that he cannot bear to let things go. Once I knew this about him I was intrigued – I wanted to know if he genuinely felt he was collecting things or if he knew he had a problem but just didn’t want to face up to it. It made me feel claustrophobic as Miriam explores Erik’s home for the first time – all those books, magazines and cuttings stacked up everywhere with barely any room to walk through. It also made me remember how I have been in the past. I grew up with a family member who collected newspapers and books – it was confined to one room and as a child it felt like a treasure trove but as an adult it was stifling. My own ‘collecting tendencies’ have been a bit much in the past but as I always spread my books through the house, and so it never seemed so bad.
‘The answer wasn’t rational, I knew that. He collected because he had to. It was a compulsion not a choice.’
Miriam seems to be the polar opposite of Erik – she is renting a tiny flat with a friend and has ended up with the smallest room and yet her friend still manages to make her feel like she’s a guest in her own home. Miriam decides on a whim to pack up nearly all of her belongings and take them to the charity shop with barely a backwards glance. Her reason was that she felt like it.
‘I didn’t want what they stood for anymore […]. I was just sick of it. I was sick of myself’.
There is a real poignancy running throughout this novel and I loved that. I soon came to feel that Erik’s hoarding was likely a reaction to what his childhood had been like, and that made me understand him more. Later we find out that it’s more complex than that and that just adds to the depth of his character. Then there are moments when Miriam has so few clothes left that she’s having to put the washing machine on most days, and when her flatmate comments about the electric bill Miriam laughingly retorts to her that ‘You have a boyfriend. I have my washing’ before realising how tragic that sounds. Miriam is lonely, she is trying to get by in life unable to find the thing that will make her happy. Miriam and Erik are each protecting themselves by either having too much stuff around them, or too little – it feels like comfort and safety but in reality it’s dragging you down when you’re either imprisoned by your belongings or untethered by your lack of things. They both need to find some middle ground.
The further you get into this book the more the title begins to gain meaning. Miriam is making space in her room but actually it’s more about her trying to find herself and her place in the world. Clearing out all of her belongings leads her to things that she might otherwise have not done but it also makes her feel cast adrift and a bit lost for a while. Erik needs to make space in his home for his daughter but his problem is more to do with him needing space in his head. Miriam’s need to get back a postcard that her father had sent her when she was little, and what she does with it towards the end of the book was so moving to me. Her realisation about her need for space, but also her need to let people into her life makes for a really fascinating read. As space is made, or in some cases un-made, by each of these characters, the more they become able to allow people and opportunities into their lives.
This is such a beautiful novel about how we can’t help but bring the pain of our past into the present. It’s about finding your place in the world in whatever way you can. It’s about learning to be okay with who you are. It’s about letting go of the endings and making space for new beginnings.
When I was offered this book I knew I was going to enjoy it, but I didn’t realise just how moving the book would be, and how much it would come to hold a place in my heart. I loved every minute that I spent reading Making Space and it’s one of my favourite books of this year so far.
I highly recommend making space on your bookcase for Making Space. It’s out now and the ebook is currently on offer this week for just £1, which is an absolute bargain for such a wonderful novel.
I was sent a copy of this book by Sandstone Press in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Sarah Tierney is a graduate of the MA in Novel Writing at Manchester University, and her short story, ‘Five Miles Out’, was made into a short film by the acclaimed director Andrew Haigh. Sarah has worked as a journalist, editor and copywriter. She lives in Derbyshire with her husband and daughter.
(Author bio and photo taken from: SandstonePress.com)
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27 thoughts on “#BookReview: Making Space by @SarahTierney @sandstonepress #MakingSpace”
This sounds fabulous, off to add to my tbr 🙂
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did 🙂
This sounds like an excellent read. I don’t think books count as hoarding, but every now and again we do have a big go-through of a terrible corner, and we have plenty of those!
I really enjoyed it, it struck such a chord with me. I don’t think books count as hoarding unless it gets to a point where you have thousands of them stacked precariously along the walls because there’s no space for them (which I was getting like before we bought our house a few years ago!). Now I only allow myself books that will fit on my existing bookcases and shelves so when they’re full I have to go through and see if there are any I no longer want to keep. My husband collects records so we’re competing for space now! 😉
Sounds good – I’d rather read this than spend time de-cluttering!
Haha! I know that feeling – the book is really good, I recommend it. 🙂
I love this review! My mother is a hoarder, while I like to let go of things of the past that are dragging me down. I’d get rid of everything but my books, but books don’t count, do they???
I love the depth the book seems to have and just how without giving lessons in a patronizing way, it looks like it only shows the reader in a gentle manner to invite them to think about the reasons why we do what we do.
Thank you so much 🙂 My mum always kept everything too, she was so sentimental and I think that’s where I get it from. I try so hard since buying my own home to be better and I’m getting there. I have a one in, one out policy so if I buy something new then something old has to be got rid of and that works for me. This novel is really good – it makes you think about why some people hoard and others just obsessively get rid of stuff and whether the two things are opposite ends of a similar kind of thinking. I recommend this book 🙂 xx
I remember you saying this about your mother. Mine is the same. I had her get rid of her wedding dress 16 years after her divorce. I like the one in, one out policy, as long as it doesn’t involve books! 🙂 xx
Sounds like a great book, lovely review Hayley x
Thank you so much 🙂 x
Very nice review! Seems interesting!
Thank you 🙂
Everything I’ve learned about hoarding tells me that it’s a mental illness, so the person unlikely sees their behavior as a problem until family members tell them it is. If you simply go into a hoarder’s house and remove their things “for them,” they tend to rebound and end up even worse. It’s almost the equivalent to a crash diet during which a person loses a bunch of weight but gains back more. If you’re interested in books about clutter, here is a good one you may enjoy and likely can get at the library: https://grabthelapels.com/2015/11/02/cant-we-talk-about-something-more-pleasant/
Yes, I completely agree with you. A hoarder has to be ready to deal with their issue and then to deal with all of their belongings, it’s not something you can fix by simply clearing out their stuff. Thanks for that recommendation, I’ve just read your review and have made so note to look the book up – I’ve not heard of it before but it sounds really interesting.
This one sounds like a multi-layered exploration of clutter, and that’s fascinating. It sounds well-written, too. Glad you enjoyed it.
Thank you. I enjoyed how it explored why people hoard, and why other people get rid of so much of their stuff and how it’s possible that it’s opposite ends of a similar issue. It made me think and I enjoyed reading it.
Sounds like a wonderful read. I’m a bit of a hoarder and have to try and make myself be ruthless at times. I then worry about what I’ve got rid of. How strange we can be!
It really is a great read, I recommend it. My natural tendency is to hoard but I’ve worked so hard to stop it. The more I clear my clutter, the more I enjoy the feeling of space in my home and that gives me the motivation to keep going. I think you’d enjoy this novel 🙂
When I noticed this book on your stacks, I was intrigued…I hoped it would be a novel instead of a “how-to” book, so I am pleased to realize that it is definitely fiction.
A few years ago, I read a lot of books on hoarding. I consider myself a bit of a collector, definitely not inching toward hoarding, but for my daughter, anything that isn’t minimalist borders on hoarding, so she nags me on it. LOL. I’ve done some purges in the past couple of years, mostly donating some books, and packing away some of the collections in the garage. I know that I will always have an eye out for any movement toward that line I don’t want to cross.
Thanks for sharing.
I love reading books on hoarding and de-cluttering, they help me keep focused on not filing my house with stuff in the way I used to. This book is a novel and it’s a great read, it’s one of those books that really struck a chord with me and I think it will stay with me. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to read it. 🙂
Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
Check out the book, Making Space, by Sarah Tierney, as featured on the Rather Too Fond of Books blog
Sounds like an excellent book. As soon as I finished reading your review I hopped over to Amazon to download it!
That’s great to know, thank you so much. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. 🙂
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