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What is it about?
“That’s it, then,” said Finty. “It’s a unanermous yes vote. From now on, no one dies. We’re all waiting for Harold Fry.”
Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and writes a letter to an old friend to notify him that she is dying from cancer. She hasn’t seen or heard from him in 20 years. She received a postcard from him telling her to wait for him. While she waits, she begins writing him the letter that will explain the truth of why she left.
Is it good?
Yes! Queenie’s letter is sometimes sad, sometimes angry, sometimes funny and happy. The patients at the hospice are a wonderful cast of characters, and the memories from Queenie ‘s past are so engaging. I found myself on the brink of tears at least twice.
You do not have to have read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, but that is also a wonderful book. They are set on the same time line and involve some of the same characters, but you can read each book individually.
Some memorable quotes:
Perhaps I took my mother more literally than she intended, but I applied her rule to my life; after all, we are all searching for them, the rules. We pick them up from the strangest places, and if they appear to work once we can live a whole lifetime by them, regardless of the unhappiness and difficulty they may later bring.
This can happen unintentionally, at first you might think ‘If it isn’t broken, why fix it?’ And then it’s, ‘it worked before, it should work again.’ Or maybe it’s only a simple superstition, but you get trapped doing the same thing over and over.
If only memory were a library with everything stored where it should be. If only you could walk to the desk and say to the assistant, I’d like to return the painful memories about David Fry or indeed his mother and take out some happier ones, please.
Yes, please! That would be so wonderful!
It did not change for my landlady or your neighbors or people I passed in the street. If it altered for them, the shift was brief, it was a hiccup, it was a missing of a step, the way the sudden removal of a person is a reminder of one’s own fragility before we resume the familiar, ordinary things that make us feel untouchable again. But from where I was looking, a seismic shift occurred. And like most seismic shifts, it cut everything open and pulled it apart.
I have felt both sides of this on separate occasions, and this is such an accurate description of how tragedy affects us.
Next up: A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi