S01E05 – Small Spaces

What if the things you remember never happened? More importantly, what if no one believes your version of events? In this episode, we (or rather, Priscilla) step right out of our (her) reading comfort zone and discuss Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein, a unputdownable psychological thriller. Small Spaces follows Tash Carmody who has has been traumatised since she witnessed her imaginary friend, Sparrow, lure a child away from a carnival. We discuss stigma, gaslighting, trauma, and the impact of bad therapy. If all creepy thrillers are this fascinating, we’ll be reading more of them! (Maybe – Priscilla makes no promises.)

Mental health issues covered: Trauma, claustrophobia, mutism, panic attacks, drug use, abusive relationships (invalidation and gaslighting), very bad therapy, stigma/discrimination

Additional trigger warnings: traumatic events in this book include violence, kidnapping and a house fire, and animal cruelty.

Listen to the episode:

About the Book

We don’t pick and choose what to be afraid of. Our fears pick us.

Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival. At the time nobody believed Tash, and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory’s never spoken about the week she went missing.

As disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. And she realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks? 

About the Author

Sarah Epstein is an award-winning Australian author, illustrator and designer who grew up in suburban Sydney and now lives in Melbourne with her husband, two sons and a rescue dog called Luna. After achieving a design degree and enjoying a 25-year graphic design career, Sarah returned to her first loves of writing and illustrating. Her debut novel Small Spaces has won a number of awards and has been optioned for film. Sarah’s suspenseful new YA mystery, Deep Water, was released in April 2020. Visit Sarah’s website here.

Recommended Reading

Relevant mental health resources:

  • Mindframe has recently released guidelines for talking about use of alcohol and other drugs in the media.
  • Some information about traumatic mutism (particularly in comparison to selective mutism) can be found on Childmind and NHS.
  • Psychology Today provides information about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of dissociative amnesia.
  • Phoenix Australia has a range of resources about understanding and recovering from trauma. You can also find help through their page.
  • In Australia, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation provides information about drugs and a place to start looking for help with drugs and alcohol use. Turning Point also provides information about services for individuals affected by drugs and alcohol use and their families.
  • For mental health professionals, Emerging Minds provides a webinar about supporting children’s mental health after trauma. Emerging Minds also has resources for parents, educators, and other professionals about supporting children after traumatic events, including a Community Trauma Toolkit.
  • Raising Children and Childmind have some suggestions for parents about supporting their children after traumatic events.

More stories like Small Spaces:

  • Elise suggests Gillian Flynn’s psychological thrillers (which are not YA, but definitely page turners), including Gone Girl, Dark Places, and Sharp Objects.
  • Inside a Dog and LoveOzYA have recommendations about other Australian YA novels in the crime and mystery genre.

Voices from Lived Experience

  • Individuals who have experienced gaslighting, particularly in a domestic violence setting, discuss what it was like with ABC News.
  • Sarah Vogler talks about her experience with addiction to crystal methamphetamine and talks about stereotypes and help-seeking.

On the TBR Pile

  • If you enjoy Sarah Epstein’s writing, she has published another book called Deep Water. We are both keen to read it!

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