Culture Street

Books

The Exit by Helen FitzGerald

On February 23, 2015

By Sophia Whitfield

This is a terrifying read. Not because it is horror but because FitzGerald relates a tale that is such a part of everyday life. It is what makes her story so believable. Fear creeps in as events unfold in a care home in Glasgow.

The two narrators are both female. Catherine is a 23-year-old with no job. An only child with a controlling mother she decides to take a job at Dear Green, a care home, after her mother puts pressure on her to find a job. She hopes to save up enough money for an overseas holiday. Once she has achieved her goal she intends to leave Dear Green behind her.

Rose is an 82-year-old resident at Dear Green. A well known children’s author and illustrator, she has made a lucrative living out of her ‘Tilly’ books. Rose has dementia and is progressively becoming more confused. She continually goes back to a time when she was 10. She flits in and out from past to present in moments.

Catherine and Rose strike up a friendship. Rose seems to trust Catherine and reveals her fear that something is going on at Dear Green. People are dying. But no one will listen to Rose. She is unreliable in her memories and the fact is that people go into homes to die. As these two narrators build trust with one another Catherine begins to notice things that are out of the ordinary at Dear Green. FitzGerald skilfully brings together her two narrators drawing the reader in as she drops hints about each one of the residents at Dear Green leading to the final horrifying discovery.

The Exit is a riveting read. Sad and brutal at times, it highlights the vulnerability of the sick and ageing.

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