“The Spill” by Imbi Neeme – book review

It’s safe to say I became obsessed to an almost unhealthy degree with The Spill – or more specifically, with its characters.

To some degree The Spill reminded me of The Corrections and The Slap – both largeish novels that deal with complex relationships and families, and that pull you into the different characters’ worlds.

Yet those novels dealt with a larger cast of characters, while The Spill focuses primarily on two sisters, Nicole and Samantha, and how a car accident when they were young changed their lives – and the way they see the world.

As a result, The Spill delves more deeply into the characters than any other novel I can recall, with the possible exception of War and Peace (and that was so huge it could afford to dig deeply into its characters).

That might explain why I found myself thinking about these two sisters and their alcoholic mother continually. I’d wake up and think not of what I needed to do that day but rather of Nicole, the older sister, and worry about her future. I’d be trying to sleep while thinking of Samantha, the younger sister who cleans obsessively as a way of trying to regain control. Needless to say I also thought of Samantha while I cleaned obsessively myself, and then worried I was turning into Samantha. 

The Spill has a cute plot construction where the chapters act as missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle (since the characters in the book seem to have an odd jigsaw fetish) – and as you read the book, the pieces slowly come together both for yourself and the characters themselves, who are slowly learning more about themselves and each other while realising their preconceptions might have been wrong.

It would be easy for a novel with this plot device – and themes – to become dense if not infuriating, but the writing is so light and vivid that The Spill is easy and enjoyable to read. I also liked its witty edge, which comes both from the narration and the wisecracks that Nicole and her mother dole out. 

As such, I found it easy to fall into their world and became deeply moved by them, to the point where at one stage I was reading this in a cafe while trying not to bawl my eyes out.

In short, this is a great – and gripping – read. Though you may want to wear big sunglasses if you read it in public.

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