Room 46 by Helen McKenna.

classic nightstand with flower at the wall and door

E-book was gifted by the author for review

Room 46 is a lot of things to a lot of different people. For Edith it is her place now, after a tragic accident that left her unable to look after herself this is where she ended up. Even thought it is bright and colourful and the people are friendly and helpful, to her it is place she would rather not be.

For Grace, it is a place she dreads going to, she is afraid, afraid because her life had not turned out the way she had imagined. So much promise and now what did she have to show for it? She lives in constant panic over situations and people to the point she has panic attacks, how on earth is she supposed to volunteer at the nursing home and worse still, read to a person she has never met before? The one good things in this situation is, the patient can not talk so, will not be able to ask questions about her and her life, the only silver lining.

For Marion, it is a place she loves to work in, the residence of Rosehill Gardens are happy and always pleased to see her when she cleans their rooms. She especially loves cleaning Edith’s room. The poor woman who lost her husband in a tragic accident and slowly lost her voice and mobility due to a series of strokes. That however has not killed Edith’s spirit, each day when she arrives at work Edith is always eager for her cleaner to have a chat. Marion has another reason for wanting to work at Rosehill Gardens. She is hatching a plan to change the lives of Edith and Grace, they both need a push in the right direction. Because of what happened in the past, Marion will do anything in her power to make the future bright again for these two women.

Helen McKenna, has done it again with this wonderful tale. I am a huge fan of this author’s work and was delighted when I was asked to read this book for review. There are so many different levels to the story going on all at once, but it is so cleverly done, you do not actually realise it all connects together until you reach the last chapter. The short stories that Grace reads to Edith are so engaging that when they came to an end, I was disappointed because I wanted to know more about the characters. The secret to what makes this story work is the beautifully crafted characters that are so engaging. They all have a story to tell, some of them will make you laugh, get angry or even shed a tear or two, but above all they all have one theme in common, even when life looks like it has no direction, with a little help and encouragement anything is possible.

Highly recommended.

 

After Rafaela by Jo Chumas

after rafaela

(E-book was gifted by the author for review)

Leni, Becca and India are three friends, who found each other when they were teenagers struggling with life. They are three friends that use to be four, but now they all live in the shadow of Rafaela. Rafaela, their goddess, the glue that kept them together, died. She drowned on her 18th birthday, one minute she was vibrant and full of life, the next she was gone. The three remaining friends might have survived that awful night, but, part of them also died.

Twenty two years later the three friends decide that they need to go back to Italy to a place full of memories and ghosts of the past. Can they lay the ghost of Rafaela to rest, or will she haunt them forever? Secrets will be revealed and the truth about Leni, Becca, India and Rafaela will finally be revealed. Will Rafaela’s secrets bring the three friends back together as they once were, or will they be forever living in the shadow of their long lost Rafaela?

After Rafaela is a wonderful book for many reasons, but the one thing that I would like to focus on is the author’s ability to accurately describe the relationship between the four friends. Each one as teenagers had their own problems to deal with but, with the support of the others they made it through most of the time. Then you get the flip side, where they have problems, but they do not want to burden the others with them so, they struggle through, tell white lies and have secrets. It brings into blindingly clear focus that as people, we are not always honest, we lie to protect the ones we love and we put on an act so that people will think that all is well in their own world and feel safe.

As adults, they struggle to come to grips with how their lives have turned out, failed marriages, careers that have become obsolete are just the tip of their problems, no matter how hard they try, they cannot shake the guilt they feel over Rafaela’s death. Even though none of them are to blame they cannot let go of the idea that they are. When she was alive, Rafaela was like a flame for them and now she is gone they are lost in the dark and do not know what to do. I felt for all of them on some level, as they struggled to come to terms of their past, and to try and find a way to let it go. As young women, they made mistakes that changed the course of their lives because they thought in some small way it would make it easy to let Rafaela go, but all they managed to do was to make their lives worse and the guilt still remained. This story is a perfect example of the human condition when it comes to grief and how it can cripple and destroy you, if you let it.

A beautiful and descriptive story that will take the reader on a journey that will make you laugh, cry, feel anger, love and every other emotion in between. This is the first book I have read by Jo Chumas but, it will definitely not be my last. If you like books that make you delve into yourself and make you analyse your own life, then this is a book is worth taking a look at.