Like sinking down on a pillowy featherbed, from the very first pages this book enveloped me.
Layered with richly textured characters, (and reminiscent to me of reading Joanna Trollope, or even Kate Atkinson) this lovely book reminds us of the power of emotional connection to heal us, and the simple truth that, – no matter how deeply it may be buried – the choice to let healing begin exists within each of us.
We meet our three main protagonists, – Frances, Catherine and Sam – as each of them are settling into new digs in the freshly renovated flats on Willow st; an urban commuter-friendly neighborhood with a much-cherished London postal code.
“Comfortable complacent people leading comfortable, complacent lives, no doubt. I wondered whether any of them ever thought of the fragility of it all; considered the hairline cracks that could appear when least expected, causing the whole fabric to implode. “
Each of the main characters comes to the story with significant emotional baggage; not really living but more surviving; each of them desperate, in their own way, for an escape into the promise of a new beginning, framed enticingly by the safe geniality of their new surroundings.
Providing “social spaces for strangers to be both together and apart”, their new home features “urban tree-lined streets and even early morning rowers on the river”.
If only it were that simple! Sadly for our protagonists, as we all know, and as the author leads us to acknowledge, yet again, there is no true escape from our pasts. Instead, the “places and the events attached to them inevitably shape us” , and with no possibility of erasure, “ they stick”.
Getting to know these characters, at first, appears somewhat straightforward. Gradually we realize that it’s up to us to let each of them take shape, more carefully than we first assumed, as we piece together their stories, bit by bit, and learn of past traumas hidden deep within them – stories involving loss, heartache, mistakes and cancerous self-blame – and how deeply each has impacted their current choices.
As we get to know them, – their pasts and its’ imprint on the burdens they currently carry – it’s impossible not to fall under their spell. We care about them. It is so apparent, to us, as readers, (if not to each of them) that the enforced neighborly pretensions, from the blustery bonhomie to the no-nonsense neighborhood interfering are deflections intended to shield the rawest of their vulnerabilities.
Can this small but persistent fledgling community, united in both proximity and a blossoming neighborly compassion, work its healing magic on the lives of these survivors?
Could it be that, ultimately, reconciliations to a brighter path may still be possible for each of them?
No spoilers here. You will just have to read this lovely book. (I will let slip, however, that I closed this book, gently and contentedly, and it’s fair to say, I had a smile on my face.)
My stop on the @Randomthingstour for #MillerStreetSW22 by @JudeHayland
A great big thank you to the author, the publisher for an advance review copy of this book.
All thoughts presented are my own.