All That Was Lost by Alison May tells the tale of the esteemed yet feigned psychic, Patrice, and her desire to capture her final moments in the bibliographical writing of Leo, a sceptical journalist. Leo sets forth on a path of discovery and surprise as he pieces together Patrice’s life. Louise, a grief-stricken mother who is traumatised by the loss of her son Kyle, visits Patrice’s clairvoyant show in the hopes of reconnecting with him beyond the spiritual realm. She becomes deeply infatuated with this revival of her son and further imposes herself on the lives of Leo and Patrice. The novel is wrought with emotion, although at times its diction feels a little rigid and its characters gullible. Nevertheless, we can see ourselves in these characters’ shoes in their struggles to wade through the murky waters of fiery love and its agonising loss.
We are thrown into a very naive narrative of spiritual believers. Patrice is a woman of many spiritualistic trades. Her character poses many moral questions: is she taking advantage of these people with her illusionistic service of medium and clairvoyance? Should those suffering be treated with absolute honesty in the finality of death? Or, is this service merely a white lie to keep a light ignited in those suffering irreparable pain? For Louise, she is just the remedy. Alas, for the persistent Pekinese owner, dog-whispering is not one of Patrice’s many skills. What ruff times! She won’t be hearing any barks from doggy heaven anytime soon.
Beyond the initial eyerolls of meeting this too-perfect psychic Patrice, we learn that her claim to fame is set on a deteriorating bed of lies. She is a woman of two identities, having abandoned her real name Patience Bickersleigh to adopt the role of Patrice. May cunningly allows us to travel through time back to the life of young, innocent, aspiring Patience in 1967. Patience provides a more likable, more emotive and more exciting antithesis to the withering Patrice. These stories which run parallel throughout the novel leave us constantly wanting to jump back into one or the other. May effectively keeps us on edge as she feeds us Patrice’s elusive origins and her web of lies. Patrice’s past manages to catch up with her with many twists and a bundle of surprises along the way, something that will keep you turning those pages.
All That Was Lost, while very approachable in its tackling of the human experience, was lackluster in the magic of storytelling. Its lines were overtly simple at times. It felt as though the author herself lacked in the experiences she was describing. That said, with the power of imagination, this book can be a very addictive read when keeping our own experience of love and loss in mind. It is a humble piece of work from May and deserves its credit in the literary world with its stark, revealing depiction of the past. If you are one for family, spiritual, and professional drama, this read is just for you. Alison May has you covered for a light read, whether you are chilling with a cup of tea or waiting on that next lecture.
All That Was Lost by Alison May
Legend Press (2018)
Image: MiraCosic via Pixabay.