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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts by Josie Shapiro

If you enjoyed Lessons in Chemistry and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine you’ll adore Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts, the media release says

After devouring my advance reading copy, I couldn't agree more! From the first page, I was drawn into Mickey Bloom’s world and fascinated with every step.

Mickey is five foot tall, dyslexic and bullied at school. One day she discovers running and realises she can be strong and powerful! However, success comes at a cost and the relentless demands leave her broken and her dream in tatters.

Years later, when Mickey is working as a barista in a café, her mother becomes seriously ill. After returning home to care for her mum in her final days, she realises the only way she can overcome her grief is to run again.

“At first, the idea of writing a novel about a female runner was just a little gem of an idea,” says Josie. “At the start, I wasn’t sure how the novel would unfold. I didn’t have much in terms of plot, or character – simply a woman, about to embark on something immensely difficult. All I had was an inherent understanding of the drama and storytelling potential that long distance running holds, and how much I wanted to read a story about a woman struggling with the challenges and sacrifices of achieving her goals in life.”

“I wrote the first 800 words in a quick rush when I had the initial idea and then didn’t return to the novel until much later. When I found that short passage and started writing again, I couldn’t stop. The character of Mickey Bloom seemed to come alive as I wrote the opening chapters – she was a spunky risk-taker, someone who feels overlooked and unlovable. Sensitive and brave, Mickey’s story was inspired from my own life, and from other athletes I’d heard about.”

“It wasn’t until I was refining the first draft, and I started reading more about high-level sport – about running in particular – that I realised how common most of the tragedies in Mickey’s life are, and how much worse reality can be. Telling Mickey’s story – even if it was fictional – felt very urgent and real.”

“When I was a teenager, I was a competitive swimmer. I woke at 5am most mornings of the week to swim before school, I swam after school, on weekends, and spent a lot of time travelling to competitions around New Zealand. I situated Mickey into a very similar place: a feverish obsession with her sport; a relationship that was pushed to uncertainty and danger by the conditions around her; a life where men can make or break you,” says Josie.

Beautifully written, this novel explores community, family and narratives around success. It’s cleverly structured plot line showcases Mickey’s determination balanced with her vulnerability. Regardless of whether you’ve ever run or not, this is an utterly absorbing and poignant page-turning novel.

Josie Shapiro has a Masters in Creative Writing and her short stories have been published online and in literary journals. Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts is her debut novel and is also the winner of the Allen & Unwin Commercial Fiction Prize.

Reviewer: Andrea Molloy Allen & Unwin, RRP $36.99


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