The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, by Rachel Joyce (2015, 2014)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult (middle aged and up)
Love Song of Miss Queenie HennessyRemember the amazing 600-mile trek across England we followed in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry? A letter arrives from his former colleague Queenie Hennessy letting him know she is dying. With little thought and no planning, Harold heads off to see her one last time. On foot. He writes to let her know and asks her to wait for him. In this companion novel, Queenie is in the hospice, living out her last days. She gets Harold’s first note, asking her to wait. Wait? She’s dying! Sister Mary Inconnu convinces her to make her own journey while she waits, writing out the story she wishes she had told Harold all those years ago. It’s not easy – Queenie has difficulty speaking and holding a pencil, and she is losing her words. But with encouragement she perseveres, and slowly the story unfolds. We shift back and forth between the interlaced story of Queenie and Harold, and the delightful characters who share Queenie’s life at the hospital, as well as the years she spent in between living on a beach cottage building a renowned sea garden. I enjoyed seeing Queenie’s own character grow stronger on the page even as her body weakens. This is a much darker novel, thankfully lightened with occasional moments of humour and affection. And even though this is a companion novel, and I know the outcome, Joyce surprised me several times, right to the very end. In fact, I found myself wishing I had a copy of Harold Fry at my side, so I could check out his version of events in more detail. I might have to read it again. (And I’m pleased to say that my prediction of accolades for this book was on the mark – Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize!) Ultimately I don’t think it matters which you read first, but read them both. My thanks to NetGalley for an advance e-copy in exchange for my honest review.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20890479
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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