Isaac and the Egg by Bobby Palmer – review

Published by Headline Review

Publication date – 18 August 2022

Source – review copy

Isaac stands alone on a bridge and screams.

Something screams back.

And that, like everything which follows, is unforgettable.

This is a book about a lot of things – grief, hope, friendship, love. It’s also about what you’d do if you stumbled into the woods at dawn, found something extraordinary there, and decided to take it home.

It’s a tale that might seem familiar. But how it speaks to you will depend on how you’ve lived until now.

Sometimes, to get out of the woods, you have to go into them. Isaac and the Egg is one of the most hopeful, honest and wildly imaginative novels you will ever read.

Isaac is on a precipice. He stands, alone, believing his only choice is to be swallowed by the blackness that surrounds him. Then he finds the Egg, a strange creature who cannot talk to Isaac but speaks to him in different way. Isaac thinks he is lost but Egg slowly starts to show Isaac the way forward.

I wasn’t aware before I started Isaac and the Egg that it was a story about grief. I may have not picked it up when I did, had I been aware, but I am glad I did. The story pulls the reader in from the very first page and soon all I wanted to do was read on to ensure that Isaac got through his darkest time.

The grief is raw, real and all the more impactful for how it is simply portrayed. Isaac knows he isn’t perfect but his love for Mary was as much a physical part of him as it was an emotional part. The reader travels with Isaac on his trips down memory lane, sees his flaws through her eyes, sees how his memory of how they met also becomes part of his nightmares, that she will not turn and see him in a crowded street but instead will walk away and he will miss out on their life together. He doesn’t remember the overly romantic times but their everyday life, the simple love that sits in the background, taken for granted sometimes but always present, known to be there without the need to be expressed.

Isaac’s grief has led him to no longer care about anything, especially himself. He stops cooking, eating only because he has to, stops washing, speaking to family and spends each day locked away in his house, and the nights outside, the memories vanishing with the rising sun. When he finds Egg, Isaac has his focus shift from introspection to an external force. He has someone, or something to look after, to feed, to educate and to entertain. He introduces Egg to the films he and Mary watched together, he gets Egg to join him in cathartic, and messy, destruction of things in his home, when the emotions overwhelm him. He starts to realise that Egg can’t stay with him forever. As much as it pains him to know that he will lose Egg eventually, he attempts to help his new friend find a way home because Isaac knows that is what is best for Egg, finding his own way home in the process.

As the story progresses Isaac slowly frees himself from the darkness that has overcome him. He knows it is not easy, that there will be steps back. He begins to realise he needs help, that he needs his sister and family who are there, waiting for Isaac without pressure.

It is so hard to review a book like Isaac and the Egg without giving too much of the story away. One of the joys of reading this is to discover the narrative for yourself. There’s an intimacy when reading a story about grief, as if you are a voyeur, a visitor, though not an unwelcome one, who is looking in on a very private matter. That is down to the strength of the writing, the whilst the story is not real, the emotions that drive it feel nothing but authentic. It’s a personal journey for Isaac but the reader, and Egg, are there every step of the way with him.

A tale of grief and the power of love, this is a story that will break your heart and then put the pieces back together again.

Highly recommended.

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