Genre: Adult

Bookish Illumination: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (2015) by Rachel Joyce

Bookish Illumination: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (2015) by Rachel JoyceThe Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce
Published by Random House Publishing Group on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Adult, Fiction, Literary, Realistic
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

From the bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry comes an exquisite love story about Queenie Hennessy, the remarkable friend who inspired Harold's cross-country journey. A runaway international bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry followed its unassuming hero on an incredible journey as he traveled the length of England on foot--a journey spurred by a simple letter from his old friend Queenie Hennessy, writing from a hospice to say goodbye. Harold believed that as long as he kept walking, Queenie would live. What he didn't know was that his decision to walk had caused her both alarm and fear. How could she wait? What would she say? Forced to confront the past, Queenie realizes she must write again.   In this poignant parallel story to Harold's saga, acclaimed author Rachel Joyce brings Queenie Hennessy's voice into sharp focus. Setting pen to paper, Queenie makes a journey of her own, a journey that is even bigger than Harold's; one word after another, she promises to confess long-buried truths--about her modest childhood, her studies at Oxford, the heartbreak that brought her to Kingsbridge and to loving Harold, her friendship with his son, the solace she has found in a garden by the sea. And, finally, the devastating secret she has kept from Harold for all these years.   A wise, tender, layered novel that gathers tremendous emotional force, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy underscores the resilience of the human spirit, beautifully illuminating the small yet pivotal moments that can change a person's life.

Illuminations of Spirituality:

Was I ever delighted to discover that Rachel Joyce was writing a companion novel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye! If you read my review of that one, you know that I read this book last fall for the first time. I picked up a copy in London and fell in love with the story and with its characters. A man who decides to walk the length of England to visit a dying friend? At first it may not sound all that exciting, but it was such a beautiful and moving story, filled with ordinary encounters hiding the extraordinary.

Knowing I would be able to return to a world with Harold Frye and Queenie Hennessy, but this time with more of Queenie’s story made my world get just a little brighter! The story takes place at the SAME TIME as the other book. It just focuses on Queenie’s perspective instead of Harold’s.

I am starting again, I thought. Because that is what you do when you reach the last stop. You make a new beginning.

Like Harold Frye, this novel really highlights the importance of looking beyond appearances and recognizing that people are complex individuals who deserve respect and connection. We are all striving to connect with each other, and I think that both of Joyce’s books effectively depict characters who need that kind of connection. These characters become willing to reach out so these connections form with others.

Long ago Harold said to me:

“There are so many things we don’t see.”

What do you mean? I asked. My heart gave a flip.

“Things that are right in front of us,” you said.

There’s no sugar coating how difficult life can be in this story. Queenie is a flawed and broken woman, but she’s honest about that, and through flashbacks, the story illuminates different points in her life that give insight into the woman she has become.

The place was a part of me in the same way that the past was a part of me and you were a part of me and so were my bones.

Not only does the book illuminate matters of the heart in a way that speaks to me of the book’s spirituality, the story also highlights an appreciation for the beauty of the natural world. This is revealed through Queenie’s sea garden, and her memories of the garden represent a significant part of the book, for it gives further insight into who Queenie is. She’s experienced Beauty, but beauty can reach us in different ways.

Every once in awhile you have to stop in your tracks and admire the view, a small cloud and a tree outside your window. You have to see what you did not see before. And then you have to sleep.

The last thing I wanted to mention about this book’s spiritual aspects is the notion of forgiving yourself. Queenie has to come to terms with some events in her life, and one key question for her is whether she can forgive herself for something from her past. It is with the help of others and through her own writing that Queenie begins this journey towards forgiveness. In case you haven’t read the book, I won’t say anything more.

Who Should Read This Book:

If you enjoyed Harold Frye, you will appreciate this story. But, even if you didn’t read Joyce’s other book, I would still recommend this one to you if you’re in the mood for a moving and beautiful story about broken individuals striving for connection and love in the world.

I can honestly say that this book brought tears (like Harold Frye) but it was a good kind of tears. You will know this if you read Harold Frye, but Queenie does have cancer and is living with other people with terminal illnesses in the book. But it’s definitely not a depressing story–Trust me!

The Final Illumination:

I approached this book with some particular ideas about what Queenie would be revealing and who she had been in love with. I actually was quite surprised by what I discovered, and I appreciated that element of surprise. I may have even enjoyed this companion novel to Harold Frye even more, because we don’t get much of Queenie’s perspective in the other book. And that’s ok, because it is Harold’s book and his pilgrimage. This is another fabulous book club book, like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye.

“People think you have to walk to go on a journey. But you don’t, you see. You can lie in bed and make a journey too…”

I wish I had someone else to chat with about this book, so if you read it (or are reading it) do comment below or tweet me your thoughts!

I received an e-ARC from the publisher via Netgalley and this in no way affected my review.

four-half-stars
What Katie Read

Waiting on Wednesday for A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

Waiting on Wednesday for A Desperate Fortune by Susanna KearsleyA Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
Published by Sourcebooks, Inc. on April 7th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance, Time Travel
Pages: 528
Goodreads

Beloved New York Times bestselling author Susanna Kearsley delivers a riveting novel that deftly intertwines the tales of two women, divided by centuries and forever changed by a clash of love and fate.For nearly three hundred years, the cryptic journal of Mary Dundas has kept its secrets. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas travels to Paris to crack the cipher.Jacobite exile Mary Dundas is filled with longing-for freedom, for adventure, for the family she lost. When fate opens the door, Mary dares to set her foot on a path far more surprising and dangerous than she ever could have dreamed.As Mary's gripping tale of rebellion and betrayal is revealed to her, Sara faces events in her own life that require letting go of everything she thought she knew-about herself, about loyalty, and especially about love. Though divided by centuries, these two women are united in a quest to discover the limits of trust and the unlikely coincidences of fate.

If I discover an author who happens to integrate two of my favorite genres—historical fiction and fantasy—I’m going to take note. That’s what I discovered when I read The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley several years back. My housemate at the time had recommended it to me, and once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop. Switching between 1708 and the present, The Winter Sea focuses on a woman working on her novel near a castle in Scotland who quickly discovers that ancestral memory may be giving her glimpses of a past she otherwise wouldn’t know.

I won’t give anything else away but considering I have a great love for Scotland, castles, writing, and history, I can say that this book was an extremely satisfying read.

So it’s no surprise that today I’m waiting on a new Susanna Kearsley book: A Desperate Fortune, set to hit shelves on April 7th.

This one includes more Jacobite history, a MC who’s a codebreaker, Paris, intrigue, and adventure! Wow!

I hope you’re excited as I am. But you may be waiting on another book this Wednesday? Tell all!

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme that highlights our most anticipated upcoming releases. It’s hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

What Katie Read

“The sight of strangers safe at home…”: (Review) The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

“The sight of strangers safe at home…”: (Review) The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Published by Penguin Group US on February 11th 2015
Genres: Adult, Mystery
Pages: 378
four-stars

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people's lives.Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She's even started to feel like she knows them. "Jess and Jason," she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.And then she sees something shocking. It's only a minute until the train moves on, but it's enough. Now everything's changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

Spiritual Illuminations: [How this book made me think about spirituality.]

Three perspectives were featured in this story, and that made it extremely interesting. I’m drawn to books with multiple narrators (and if they are unreliable, even better!) because I appreciate getting more than one side to the story.

Here we have a mystery—Megan (second voice) has vanished and is nowhere to be found. Rachel (first voice), a thirty something recently divorced woman, has watched her on the train every day as she passes the back garden of Megan’s home. When she witnesses something that she thinks may be a clue as to Megan’s whereabouts, she gets involved in the investigation. And that complicates things a bit.

The third voice, Anna, is married to Rachel’s ex-husband, and they also become involved in the investigation, due to living on the same street as Megan and her husband. Needless to say, switching between each of these perspectives made the story race along for me. I couldn’t stop listening. (After all, I was “reading” the audiobook version of this during a cross country trip.) All three of these narrators seem unreliable in some way. Who can I believe? What really happened? What was only imagined? These kinds of questions popped up during the reading event, and kept me on my toes, so to speak, desperately trying to piece together what happened. Paying close attention to detail with this story is a must, if you want to have a chance at figuring this one out.

If this story had not been told through three perspectives, and through just one, for example, it wouldn’t have been as rich. Getting a story through three voices accomplishes something important—it communicates to the reader that there is more than one side to a story, and your side is going to inevitably affect the way you respond to others in the same situation. Whether you related to Rachel, Megan, or Anna, hearing all three of the voices at one point or another in the story gives readers a chance to develop empathy for more than one character.

This is the way it is in life, as well, and I appreciate getting this reminder. Sure, there are many books that do this—that employ the multiple voices in the story, but when it’s well-done (and from my perspective, it’s pretty good), I think it adds rich nuances and complexity to a narrative.

What I Liked About This Audiobook:

I really liked the first two voices on the audiobook but the voice of Anna was a bit annoying! Then again, I think the actress probably was playing her part well because I think Anna is meant to be annoying. I didn’t really like Anna for the entire book, until the end. At that point I saw a little more that I liked in her character. Hawkins, in my opinion, brought the three voices together in a clever way, and I would definitely listen to the audio version of the book again.

The setting! I so appreciated the way Hawkins builds London as the setting in the book. Having lived in London twice, and having been a regular train rider on London trains, I absolutely loved her realistic depiction of that travel. Whether it was mentioning specific parts of Central or Greater London in the story, or referring to details about what it’s like to be stopped on the train during a red signal, I liked this book even more because of the way I could relate to the movements of a Londoner. Even if you haven’t lived in London, though, I think you would appreciate those details.

If you’re an audiobook listener, I would recommend checking this title out!

Not all of my blogger friends liked this one, but I do think it’s a story that you either really enjoy or you just don’t get into. And that’s ok, but I still suggest, give this one a chance!

Quotes of Illumination:

“The holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps.”

“I am no longer just a girl on the train, going back and forth without point or purpose.”

“On the train, the tears come, and I don’t care if people are watching me; for all they know, my dog might have been run over.”

The Final Illumination:

The Girl on the Train featured flawed people dealing with the various joys and trials that life brings—and some people had lives that more difficult than others. However, as different as one character was from the other, you got the sense that there is always something that can connect us. Even though our lives might be vastly different, we can connect—though we have to be intentional about it.

Rachel, Megan, and Anna all lived terribly different lives, and they each had struggles and joys that were vastly different. But, I wonder how their stories would have turned out differently if they would have recognized the ways they were similar.

Finally, something I could completely relate to in the book: the way Rachel looked at strangers’ homes the train rolled past during her commute. She liked to imagine what kind of lives they lived, and who they were. This is something that I think a lot of Londoners do—and I think it’s brilliant to imagine what kind of lives these other people are living. I never get tired of that dimension of being in London!

Did you read The Girl on the Train? What did you think about how the story ended? Be careful of spoilers for people that haven’t read. You can always tweet me though!

four-stars
What Katie Read
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