Exclusive Extract: Making Space by Sarah Tierney

26 May

It’s my stop on the Making Space blog tour today and I have an extract from the book to share with you. Making Space is Sarah Tierney’s debut novel. Sarah is a graduate of the MA in Novel Writing at Manchester University, and her short story, ‘Five Miles Out’, was made into a short film by the acclaimed director Andrew Haigh. Sarah has worked as a journalist, editor and copywriter. She lives in Derbyshire with her husband and daughter.

making spaceWhy do we hold onto things we don’t need? And let go of the things we do? Miriam is twenty-nine: temping, living with a flatmate who is no longer a friend, and still trying to find her place in life. She falls in love with Erik after he employs her to clear out his paper-packed home. They are worlds apart: he is forty-five, a successful photographer and artist and an obsessive hoarder still haunted by the end of his marriage. Miriam has an unsuccessful love life and has just got rid of most of her belongings. Somehow, they must find a way to reach each other.

Extract

There was a time when I wore t-shirts with band names on them and patterned dresses with big boots. At some point, though, this style had become no good. It was too teenage, too studenty so I’d replaced it with the Next jumpers and the boot cut jeans, and these work clothes; silk-lined suits, stiff ironed shirts, plain black trousers, which felt like a costume every time I put them on: Now I’m going to dress like someone with an office job. And thinking about it, so did the other two sections of my wardrobe. Now I’m going to dress like a girl desperate for attention. Now like a girl desperate to be ignored.

I put them all in the corner marked ‘charity’. Then I started on my books. I had a lot. They filled two bookcases and were stacked in piles against the wall. Some were from university. TV criticism, film scripts, biographies of directors and actors. Others dated back to my late teens Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, Lolita, On the Road, and so on. Over the years, my tastes had become less literary. Many of my more recent purchases featured vampires. My DVDs followed a similar pattern. At uni I’d chosen films by director. Now I preferred to watch HBO box sets. You could wipe out an entire weekend with a twelve–episode series, emerging on Monday morning with no hangover, just a vague sense of dislocation in the world.

I put a few in the corner named ‘sell’ and the rest in ‘charity’. Then I moved the sell ones to charity as well. I didn’t want them hanging around for months while I waited for someone to buy them off Amazon.

I worked my way through the whole room like that, sorting through my shoes, my make-up, my knick-knacks. There was a box under my bed full of old letters, birthday cards, and photographs. I pulled it out and took off the lid, then suddenly lost heart. I called my sister Susie then, to ask if she’d give me a lift to a charity shop tomorrow. Most of my belongings were in that corner, and the one labelled ‘bin’. Almost all, in fact.

By the time I’d finished, Jessica and Gareth had gone out. It was a Friday night. I ate a bowl of cold curry in the kitchen then got ready for bed.

I didn’t have any pyjamas to change into and taking them out of the bin bag felt wrong, like I’d broken a promise. I left them where they were and got under the covers naked. I never did that if I was on my own.

The next morning Susie arrived at just past nine, the only gap she had in her Saturday schedule. She had her phone in one hand, car keys in the other, but still managed to grab my arm when she saw all my stuff packed up in my room. ‘I thought you meant just a few bags. Are you finally moving out of this student flat?’

‘“Young professionals”. Neither of us are students.’

‘Sorry. “Young professionals”. So, where are you going?’

‘Nowhere. I’m having a clear-out.’

‘Of everything you own?’

I gave her a bin bag of clothes to take down to her car. Susie was three years older than me but it always felt like more. She had married Tom when she was nineteen. They’d had two children by the time she was twenty-four. She’d never been to uni and done the living with friends thing or the staying in bed till 1 pm on a Tuesday thing. As a result, she looked at my life like it was something quirky and strange and not quite serious. As if it was a fanciful project I was involved in, rather than an actual adult existence.

She once asked me why I hadn’t settled down with a decent man, as if decent men came along all the time and offered to set up home with me, and I was just giggling and batting them away. Both my sister and my mum veered between treating me like a child and getting annoyed that I wasn’t more grown-up. Today, for example, Susie would happily take over the whole charity shop operation, then later tell me to get my driver’s licence so I didn’t have to rely on her to help out. It was confusing to be mollycoddled one minute then told to sharpen up the next.

Making Space is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sandtone Press.

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