Mum had been pushing me to try for the only job that required fewer skills than crew member at McDonald’s: care assistant at a place called Dear Green Care Home. She knew someone who knew someone, she said, and gave me a number to call. All I had to be was human, ready to start immediately, and in Clydebank for an interview at 3.30.
Catherine is 23, and only gets a job to get her mother off her case – and so that she can save for a trip to Costa Rica. With debts mounting and another of her mother’s family meetings looming, Catherine figures working a local aged care facility can’t be too bad. But something strange is going on at Dear Green. One of the residents, eighty-two year old Rose, is convinced that terrible things happen in Room 7, and that she is in danger. The problem is, Rose has dementia, and keeps regressing to a terrible event when she was ten years old, so perhaps her worries for the present are unreliable. As Catherine gets to know and care for Rose, she must figure out what is really going on.
Apart from her job, Catherine has other issues to sort through. Is her biggest concern really getting a good selfie for Facebook, and enough likes on her posts? What about her mother’s strange behaviour and her numerous brief relationships?
The Exit is a stunning psychological thriller which deals with issues of family, ageing, dementia, and more as it moves through shocking twists and turns towards a dramatic conclusion. Told from the dual points of view of Catherine and Rose, the story gives insight into the mind of a seemingly self-absorbed young person and an older person who is losing her memory but who has previously been independent and successful, a pair who are very different but who the reader is able to get to know, and like, well.
The Exit is a compelling read.
The Exit, by Helen Fitzgerald
Faber & Faber,2015
Available from good bookstores and online.