Ava lives in small town Iowa, is a gifted sketch artist, and has one major problem: she's severely agoraphobic. She hasn't left her home in years. Everything she does either by computer, phone, or delivery service. As a young child, Ava was pretty typical and happy-go-lucky. Until the night her father dies from a massive heart attack as he's dancing with her outside their house. Her mother utters one horrible sentence that changes Ava's world: "What did you do?". Ava decides in her young child's mind that she is being punished for dancing outside with her father; she believes she could have saved him somehow if they'd been inside the house. Pair that with a grieving mother who is completely out of tune with the rapidly troubling thoughts of her daughter, and Ava withdraws from life and school until we meet her as a young woman in her 20's living the life of an agoraphobic.
Ava receives a phone call from a lawyer in London telling her that her Aunt Bev (her father's only sibling) has died, and left Ava her flat. She must come to London and live in the flat for a year in order to inherit it. Ava has come to a crossroads: either continue to live in isolation and loneliness in Iowa, or take a tremendous leap and leave for London. Heavily sedated, she gets on a plane and flies to London. Ava's agoraphobia is in full bloom and her experiences on the plane and getting to her flat are both sad and funny. This is what makes Ava's story enjoyable: her sense of humor runs throughout the novel. Ava is smart, cute, and wickedly funny. Jasper, the lawyer who contacts her, and was one of Bev's dear friends, is pretty hot and immediately attracted to Ava, agoraphobia and all. Ava is also burning with lust for Jasper, but doesn't want to even try to saddle Jasper with her issues.
Life in London isn't all that simple for Ava. Bev also left a list of places that Ava must visit within 90 days in order to continue living in the flat, besides living there for one year. And oh yes, Bev's long time friend drag queen Queenie believes Bev promised him the flat, and he won't move out. So you've got an agoraphobic who likes to self-medicate, a drag queen, and a hot lawyer all in the mix. It makes for an entertaining novel that doesn't dismiss Ava's anxiety at all, but rather shows just how hard it is for someone with an "invisible illness" to live a normal life, especially when everyone around them doesn't believe they're ill. It's quite painful to read Ava's struggle with simply opening the door to the outside and stepping out onto a sidewalk.
But, Ava's character is such a great personality that you can't help but cheer her on and smile at each victory she has, big and small. I like Mary Carter's modern tales of women and love. They're fun, but not silly, have strong female central characters, and while they do tend to have happy endings, they're not sappy, but rather a welcome reward for a hard-fought battle.
Rating: 7/10 for a very different heroine. Ava brings an awareness to invisible illness and how it can limit a life. The cast of characters are fun and fabulous, and keep the plot moving.
Available in paperback, and e-book.