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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