In a Thousand Different Ways by Cecelia Ahern is only the second book I’ve read by the Irish author, best known for PS I Love You. I loved her 2021 novel Freckles, about a young woman trying to find her place in the world.
And in some ways Ahern’s theme here is similar. We spend quite a bit of time with a young then teenaged Alice before she moves into adulthood. Alice has synesthesia – something her older brother calls a gift but she sees (for much of her life) as a curse.In a Thousand Different Ways
by Cecelia Ahern
Published by HarperCollins
Genres: General Fiction
Alice sees the worst in people.
She also sees the best.
She sees a thousand different emotions and knows exactly what everyone around her is feeling.
Every. Single. Day.
But it’s the dark thoughts.
The sadness. The rage.
These are the things she can’t get out of her head. The things that overwhelm her.
We meet Alice when she’s just eight and it’s the first time she starts seeing colour (or auras) around people. She doesn’t understand of course. She struggles with the headaches the lights give her and rebels against the emotions she absorbs from others.
Her older brother Hugh tries to protect Alice and their younger brother Ollie from their volatile mother but leaves as soon as he’s able, which coincides with Alice being sent away to a school for troublesome children. In reality it’s a lifesaver for her and for the first time she’s accepted despite her idiosyncrasies.
Her brother Hugh is encouraging Alice to strive out on her own after school when her mother’s diagnosed with cancer and younger brother – who Alice has seen absorbing her mother’s dark moods – is jailed. And, frustratingly for we readers, Alice moves back in with her ungrateful mother where she remains for several years as her carer.
Unsurprisingly her mother bites the hand that feeds her as soon as she’s able and Alice escapes. Again. This time however she has a plan.
Freckles was about a young woman trying to work out ‘who’ she was through those with whom she’s connected. Here Alice is wanting to be accepted and – though I sometimes found it hard to relate to her synesthesia, or understand how one’s cognitive or neural pathways stimulate the brain differently – I could certainly understand that acceptance from others often first requires acceptance of ourselves. And of course, an acceptance of our past.
This is both a complex and simple story about relationships and family and about love and friendship. I felt perhaps the pacing was a bit inconsistent though at the same time recognise Ahern slowed to focus on certain moments in Alice’s life… fast forwarding through others.
In a Thousand Different Ways by Cecelia Ahern was published in Australia by Harper Collins and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.