Kerry Clare’s Waiting for a Star to Fall tells the story of Brooke, a young woman much like many sharing their stories in the #MeToo movement. Brooke is barely out of high school and partying at a club when she is approached by handsome, charismatic politician Derek Murdoch. The novel begins a few years later, after their relationship had already failed, and Derek is in the news due to accusations made against him by other young staffers. It then switches back and forth from the week the accusations come out, and the “before” times, when Brooke and Derek had a relationship.
What sets Clare’s novel apart from a lot of the media discourse around the #MeToo movement is that Clare sets the story at a point where Brooke herself is still ambivalent about her feelings for Derek. She’s quick to jump to his defence, never going so far as to call his accusers liars, but rather firm in her conviction that what she had with him wasn’t abuse. Moreover, despite the truly reprehensible way he treated her in the final days of their relationship (I clearly have strong feelings about him!), Brooke very clearly still cares for him.
Waiting for a Star to Fall is an emotionally difficult read, not just because of the all-too-real, all-too-familiar story of a #MeToo experience, but also because of how it explores the long-lasting effects of this abuse. Like it is for many women who experience abuse, moving on from Derek isn’t as easy for Brooke as it may seem on the outside. Rather, it’s a years-long, multi-step process, first acknowledging the wrong done to you, then trying to rid yourself of the last vestiges of emotional ties to your abuser.
Clare takes us through Brooke’s entire journey on this front, from Brooke’s initial infatuation with Derek, all the way to her present-day struggle to maintain control over her own narrative. It’s tough to read, and potentially triggering. The entire time Brooke is falling in love with Derek, I just wanted to yell at her to get away, and it was gut-wrenching to not be able to stop the relationship and its inevitable decline from happening. The ending, while too realistic to be an uncomplicated happily ever after, was satisfying. And it provided the kind of closure that made me hope and believe that Brooke will be all right.
Something else I appreciated about this novel was its frank portrayal of abortion. [Spoiler redacted] gets one. The decision, event, and aftermath are treated as the major life events they are, but never with shame or censure. [Spoiler redacted] makes an informed, rational choice to abort, and is even level-headed enough to know the period of time that must elapse before she can resume having sex without risking infection. She declares, unequivocally, that she regrets getting pregnant in the first place, but doesn’t regret the abortion. She even gives a shout-out to the movie Dirty Dancing, which was the first time she saw on screen a character who outright wanted an abortion, and whose agency wasn’t taken away from her by a convenient miscarriage. Kerry Clare gives us a frank, sympathetic portrayal of a decision that’s very personal and complex, and that unfortunately still faces tremendous social stigma. More of this in fiction, please.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.