BOOK REVIEW: The Life of Almost by Anna Vaught

‘Ah life, death, buried, misplaced: all a jumble, to me.’

At first glance, The Life of Almost might appear simple. After all, the book only spans across 175 pages. However, a first glance never tells the full story. Anna Vaught is a writer of novels, novellas, flash fiction and non-fiction articles. In this book, it’s clear she’s mastered the arts of poetry and prose alike. She combines the two effortlessly to the point where you’re not sure if you’re reading a life story, an extended poem or a fictional tale. But it’s so gripping that you don’t care.

‘… we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going the other way…’

If you’ve been itching to read a story with a unique voice, this is the book for you. As the title suggests, the story narrates the life of Almost, but we quickly learn that the narrator is Almost. We learn about his life through his own words, which is an interesting setup. It’s as if Almost the narrator and Almost the protagonist are two separate people. What’s more, we get a funny feeling throughout the book that we’re hearing more than just Almost’s voice. Anna Vaught includes italicised snippets like ‘I’m ready for the story now, Almost’ to suggest that a narrative, just like a life, is comprised of multiple voices.

‘I leaned against its walls and closed my eyes, willing something bigger than us all and more kind to lift me up and put me somewhere else, but only taking my beautiful sea cave with us.’

The story itself is very character oriented. At the beginning of the book, Almost lists the people who will matter in his life, like his aunts and past school-teachers. While the details he uses to describe these people are funny and entertaining, Vaught’s message is more than that. Ultimately, it’s the people we come across in our lives who make a difference. Without our neighbours, teachers and great grandmothers, who are we?

‘… I loved her and I loved her and I loved her and I knew I would never ever see that returned, though she would tease me and give me a sense of being hers, almost.’

I’ll be honest, The Life of Almost isn’t the most realistic of stories. It’s not a memoir, nor is it a biography. It doesn’t try to be. There’s talk of mermaids and whispering shells and magic. It’s not entirely chronological and, if you look at it through a logical lens, not everything is believable. So I encourage you not to look through a logical lens. Who ever said fiction was logical? Anna Vaught invites her readers on a dreamlike journey. Reading The Life of Almost is dreaming with your eyes open.

‘And that is the ending, almost. Which ending did you prefer? Which shall we have? And really, all I want to ask you, is this: did any of this happen? Was any of it true?’

Make no mistake however, while the plot is a tangent from reality, there’s nothing unrealistic about the themes explored. The Life of Almost is a life of anxiety, love, laughter, fear and experience. It’s a life like any other. No matter who you are or where you come from, you’ll understand Almost. You’ll relate to Almost. You’ll almost feel like his life is your own.

The Life of Almost is published by Patrician Press and is available here.

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Reviewed by Alice Kouzmenko

Anna Vaught

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Anna Vaught is a novelist, essayist, poet, editor, reviewer and also a secondary English teacher, tutor, mentor to young people, mental health campaigner and mother of three sons. She runs the Fabian Bursary, offering one to one teaching for disadvantaged you …

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Guests are gifted a Shallow Creek visitor pack consisting of a map of Shallow Creek, a character profile, a specific location, and an item of interest.

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