Disclaimer: I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book by The Book Club on Facebook in exchange for a fair and honest review.
The Girl at the End of the Road by K A Hitchins
Vincent has found himself in a situation that any self-respecting “City” boy would balk at. He has lost his job, his rented home, possibly his high maintenance girlfriend and perhaps most humiliating of all, he is on his way home to his parents’ house in Suffolk. Rural Suffolk. At this point in his life, a decade or so after leaving school, he did not expect to find himself becoming reacquainted with his childhood bedroom or learning how to live with his loving, but in his eyes, staid middle aged parents.
But he is clear in his own mind that this is just a temporary glitch. The downturn in the economy and his huge personal debts will not hold him back. However adjusting to life in the rural village of Elmsford proves hard for Vincent, who assumes himself to be a city hotshot. There is no immediate access to internet, the job offers that he expected to flood in are nowhere in sight and his social life is virtually non-existent – unless you count dog walks with his parents’ elderly dog. A trip to the local library brings him face to face with a memory from the past in the shape of librarian Sarah Penny. Having run into this old school friend once, he finds himself encountering her on dog walks and then actively seeking her out.
So begins what initially seems to be the most unlikely of friendships. Sarah is the antithesis of friends who have featured in Vincent’s life as she is serious, quiet, slightly dowdy and happy to be in Suffolk. She is certainly unlike the city girls who dress and make up to the nines, expecting champagne fuelled dates and expensive accessories. Sarah, in her almost simplistic view of the world, makes Vincent accept some unpleasant truths about himself and his attitudes to life.
The story could be very clichéd, and at first Vincent is a pretty unlikeable character. But it was with real interest that I watched his character evolve from spoilt young man to something altogether different. Maybe there is an element of fairy tale to this, but as Vincent grows so does Sarah and the reader begins to have a glimpse into a simple world of an exceptional young lady. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I believe that there is enough already written about Sarah’s autism not to be giving anything away. I am not autistic so do not pretend to have any inside knowledge about this complex condition. But I do belong to a community of chronic illness sufferers, some of whom are on the autistic spectrum and I have recently read articles by author Laura James, who has autism and my own condition, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I feel that Sarah’s autism, which included her extraordinary intelligence, has been handled sensitively and with relevance to real life. For instance, her coping mechanisms at dealing with life following her mother’s death and her growing relationship with Vincent.
This book made me think, made me sad and in parts made me laugh out loud. Perhaps most importantly it made me examine my own attitudes to those we consider to be different to ourselves and also those closest to us. In my disability chronic illness community we call ourselves “spoonies”, in the book Sarah and her friends call themselves “The Specials” – a fantastic name. Of course there is a moral to the story for Vincent regarding what in life really makes you happy…..and sometimes you are unable to see it for trying too hard.
For me a great read, with a long review, but 5 stars all the way!