All the Good Things by Clare Fisher
Publication: June 1st 2017 by Penguin
Format: Paperback Pages: 280
‘Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn’t deserve to ever feel good again.
But her counsellor, Erika, won’t give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby’s head.
But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.
What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone-even a 100% bad person-deserve a chance to be good?‘ – Goodreads.
You know you’re in for a ride when the story is an ongoing conversation between an inmate and their therapist, my ears perked up at the idea of said inmate being asked to write down a list of all the good things in their life, it just sounded like an interesting idea to me and I wanted to know what the character would come up with.
Although this book is touted as a mystery, the actual ‘mystery’ is not important. When I started reading All the Good Things, I didn’t like the protagonist, Bethany, at all. She reminded me of Tiffany Doggett from the first few seasons of Orange is the New Black. For those who haven’t watched the show, she’s rude, insensitive, obnoxious and just all kinds of annoying. I cringed at her repeated use of ‘retard’ (this was challenged by the therapist). As the story progressed, and more was revealed about Bethany and her life, I started to feel bad for her and I understood her better.
Fisher does a wonderful job at telling Bethany’s story, waiting until the very end before unveiling the reason she’s in prison in the first place – but most readers will already come to the right conclusion halfway. I appreciated how long it took to get to the crime itself because the story isn’t about what Bethany did, it’s about why she did it and how it could have been prevented. The story is thought-provoking; it makes you ask whether people like Bethany deserve a chance at happiness and whether it’s possible to see the good at all when you’re living in darkness.
The psychological elements were intriguing. Bethany’s experiences from one foster home to another, her estrangement from her mother and the real reason behind her scarring childhood provide a valuable insight to help understand Bethany, you begin to grasp why she thinks the way she does. In addition to revealing struggles concerned with poverty and isolation, Fisher gives you an uncensored view of depression (notably postnatal depression), which makes this an eye-opening book.
If I had to pick a word to describe this book, I’d go for ‘real’. Everything from the individual characters to the experiences described in this book is stripped down and presented as is without glamorising anything. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the characters, it doesn’t matter if you still have issues with what they did (I certainly had my problems!), what matters is you acknowledge why and how the awful incident at the centre of this story happened.