Orenda Books is to publish Katie Allen's debut novel Everything Happens for a Reason, secured in a two-book deal.
Karen Sullivan, publisher, acquired world English language rights for the novel and a second untitled book in a deal negotiated with Caroline Hardman at Hardman & Swainson.
Described as "heart-rending" and "exquisitely moving", the novel in inspired by the author's own experiences. It follows a mother after her son is stillborn and her obsession with finding the reason behind the phrase "everything happens for a reason".
Sullivan said: "I read this book almost a year ago, long before it was sent out on submission, and nearly choked with excitement. Everything Happens for a Reason is that very special book, one that a publisher has to publish, a book that made me weep and laugh uncontrollably, but also fall in love – with the characters, the absurdities, the warmth and humour, the poignancy, and the original format. The writing is exquisite. I sent it to every member of the team and we were unanimous in our enthusiasm and determination to publish this beautiful book. It’s one of the most heart-rending portraits of grief I have ever read but also rich in delightfully zany humour.
"This is a joy of a book – simultaneously uplifting and searingly painful, able to make the reader laugh out loud and, within the turn of a phrase, strike straight at the heart. I cannot wait to publish this exceptional debut."
The synopsis explains: "Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong. Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave with no baby. When someone tells her that 'Everything happens for a reason', she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and becomes certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son. Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, Josephine, and eventually tracks him down, with very unexpected results."
Allen, who is a journalist at the Guardian, said: "I am so excited to have found a home with Karen and the rest of the team at Orenda – a home for me as a writer and a home for my characters. I knew it was risky to write about something so deeply personal, and painful, and then send it out into the world. But Karen understood my character, her grief and her story straight away and now I am thrilled to be working with Orenda to share that story with readers.
"When someone texted me that 'Everything happens for a reason' after our son was stillborn, the words infuriated and fascinated me in equal measure. Can we really explain everything that happens? Are we unable to accept that some things just happen? The phrase has stayed with me and out of it my character Rachel was born and her dogged attempts to make sense of a massive loss. Like Rachel, until our son died, I really believed stillbirth was something that happened decades and centuries ago but rarely now. Of course, a big part of me while pregnant just didn’t allow me to believe it could happen. But tragically, it still happens every day and when we shy away from that, it only deepens the sense of isolation that many grieving parents feel. This story is unique to my character, but the grief she feels is not."
Everything Happens for a Reason will be released in June 2021, with the second novel to follow later.