Mary O'Connor has been keeping a vigil for her first love for the past seven years.
Every evening without fail, Mary arrives at Ealing Broadway station and sets herself up among the commuters. In her hands Mary holds a sign which bears the words: 'Come Home Jim.'
Call her mad, call her a nuisance, call her a drain on society - Mary isn't going anywhere.
That is, until an unexpected call turns her world on its head. In spite of all her efforts, Mary can no longer find the strength to hold herself together. She must finally face what happened all those years ago, and answer the question - where on earth is Jim?
I'd like to thank Najma at Century for my copy of The Ends of the Earth to review.
I never got around to reading Abbie Greaves' debut novel The Silent Treatment despite buying a copy so I was intrigued when a copy of her latest book The Ends of the Earth dropped through my letterbox. Just reading the blurb alone I had so many questions running through my head, in particular what had made Jim disappear and why was Mary still keeping a vigil after all of these years? These and so many more are answered in this emotional read that really struck a chord with me due to the sensitive topics that are explored within this book.
When we first meet Mary she has been swept off her feet by a handsome stranger and before too long she is leaving her family behind in Belfast to start a new life in Ealing with Jim. For many years they lived an idyllic life, or so it seemed, but little do people know what is going on behind closed doors and the struggles that people live with on a day-to-day basis. Jim like so many men hides his emotions, it's a tightrope for them both not knowing whether each new day is going to be a good day or bad one. And then one day Jim disappears without a trace leaving Mary behind to pick up the pieces.
Fast forward seven years and Mary is living a shell of a life, living in a run-down flat, working at a supermarket by day, keeping vigil at Ealing train station every evening until it's time to go home or head to NightLine where she volunteers a couple of evenings a week answering calls from those in need. It's through the helpline that we meet the supporting cast that feature in this novel who are there for Mary but also have their own stories to tell. Ted, the manager of NightLine, Kit, one of the call handlers, and Alice, a journalist who is initially looking for a story to save her job but soon finds herself wanting to help Mary in whatever way she can, whether Mary wants her help or not.
The story alternates between the present day in 2018 and dates in the past which gives us an insight into Mary and Jim's relationship from the day they first met to the last day they saw each other. The love they shared is clear to see but also it shows the effects that depression can have on those both suffering with it and those around them. Mary in particular wishes that their last encounter could have been different and has struggled to come to terms with everything that happened and hasn't been able to move on with her life. It's as if she is in a constant state of denial and refusing to accept that Jim doesn't want to come back.
The road trip that Alice and Kit set off on brought some humour and light relief to the story despite the seriousness of their quest. And we soon discover there's a reason why Alice wants to help Mary get closure, she too has had to deal with the issue of being abandoned, although in different circumstances, but it has had a deep rooted effect on her and affected her relationships with others. So is her quest to get answers really for Mary or for herself? Kit was my favourite character even though initially he was just in the background. He was the type of friend we would all want around us but like the others he had his own secret he was hiding.
The Ends of the Earth is a heart-breaking, yet heart-warming, read with self-discovery, mental health, abandonment, friendships and relationships at its core.