Liverpool in the late 18oos/early 1900s was a cruel place to be for Annie, but she never lost her hope for the future or compassion for humanity. Although fictional, Fox in the Closet is based on a factual ancestor of the author Alisa Bates. The research put in is beyond impressive, and the dedication to her character Annie is lovely. This book is tragic through and through, yet its written in a way that inspires hope and beauty in all situations. Annie finds light, and an upside to her living conditions no matter what barrel she’s scrapping the bottom of.
The book starts out with Annie in love. She’s a barmaid at her brother’s place, and has fallen for a patron. They’ve planed to run away together, but he leaves her stranded, alone with the baby growing inside. From there it spirals from one low to another for Annie all throughout her pregnancy and beyond. After her only family and childhood contact situations turn sour, she bounces from homelessness on the cruel streets of Liverpool, begging for food and taking a couple of abandon children under her wing.
She’s picked up by the authority, and finds herself in a religious placement for distraught women and their babies. It’s an ideal place, yet because Annie is not Catholic, she is only allowed a few weeks stay. They refer her to seek out a sweatshop type workhouse. It’s a less than ideal situation, but at least it offers a roof over her head, a small meal in her growing belly, and has a decent hospital for when the baby is born. It’s an option she can’t pass up.
Annie follows instruction and is admitted in the workhouse, and its much worse than expected. She’s given a mere box with straw to sleep on, it’s lined against a wall with several others. Privacy is non existent, the food is sparce, and the work is grueling. That’s not to mention the tension and hatred the workers have with one another.
Annie winds up having her beautiful little boy Charlie here, which starts a whole new journey for her. The love and devotion she has for her baby is felt deeply. Annie fights through thick and thin to keep him, and to give him a healthy happy life despite their situation. While Charlie is still an infant, he and Annie are placed in a working home as caretakers for an elderly couple. They’re happy, and well for a short time. She’s making a living and their stay is comfortable. Sadly, they’re stricken with red measles and forced back to the workhouse hospital.
The struggle continues as Charlie grows. By the age of three, he’s been in and out of family placement, the workhouse nursery and schooling, and has stayed with Annie another short time as she was able to find work and care for him. The second time Annie was stricken with sickness, it was Cholera, and they barely made it back to the workhouse hospital, as it nearly claimed her life. This time around, Charlie is placed in a home during Annie’s recovery and she’s forced yet again to make a decision of giving Charlie a better life than what she can offer as a single homeless mother in a cruel poverty stricken place.
As the book draws to an end Annie decides to try mending fences with her brother, which is an utter fail. She also makes the decision to try and seek out Charlie’s father. She loved him dearly, and her memories of him nearly convince her that the abandonment was a fluke… nearly!
Annie’s journey is one of a kind. She has a beautiful soul despite her mishap, and loves her son with the kind of dedication that really touches a mothers heart. I absolutely loved her drive and dedication to do what’s best for Charlie no mater what, and her heartache is written flawlessly by Alisa Bates. There is a taste of poetry at the end of each chapter as an emotional sum up, and it’s perfection, I loved it! There is also an index after the story describing situations, wording, and placement as they’re linked to historical facts and places. I love everything about this book, and recommend it with the highest regard!
Annie Brett waits near the quay of the River Mersey to begin a fresh, new life with her sailor. As the moon sinks lower in the sky, she pines for her true love, though he is nowhere to be seen. If he does not come, he will leave her with a lifelong remembrance and burden. Annie rubs her tightening belly. “I fear we be alone and withered, dear child. Our hearts be properly broken, now.”