Anything that has a cup of tea on the cover peaks my interest and this book did not disappoint.
Let's set the scene. The story follows different characters through very real and commonplace struggles of everyday life; we have Jennifer who has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Syndrome. Don't misunderstand me, that diagnosis is not an everyday occurrence but what I mean by this being a 'everyday struggle' is how subtly yet powerfully, Blessan brings the reality of all human suffering to the surface. She continues to do so through the characters of Mona and her husband, James. The two are married with a young daughter and through them, Blessan covers a whole raft of topical issues such as motherhood, gambling, marital tensions, the intrusion of the in-laws, working life and faith. While Jennifer and Mona's characters epitomise very different types of suffering, they are united through the battles that life can enact. For me, there are two shining lights of Blessan's writing: that's her characters and her dialogue, and each effect each other in big ways.
To write effective and believable dialogue is a hard task to master and in my opinion, Blessan is a champion in it. Everything the characters said and the ways in which they interacted with each other was totally realistic. This allowed for the characters to be three-dimensional - real people who I could relate to. It's safe to say that this isn't an action story, there isn't a raft of twists and turns but I was still hooked enough to finish it quickly, and that was because I was rooting for the characters on the page. They carried the story beautifully through Blessan's scene-setting and that captivating dialogue.
I'm writing this on a train on my way to work, having finished the book last night. As I'm gazing out over the Yorkshire countryside, I'm asking myself - what did this book mean for me? That's something I'm trying with everything I read these days. We've just passed a field of daffodils (I think - they were bright, yellow flowers anyway) and I think I've found the answer. It's hope. Without saying too much more, the ending of the book tightens that conclusion up. That even in the face of adverse suffering and testing trials, there is always hope for something better. That out of a bad journey, something good will come, whether that's new friendships, encouragement or inspiration. As I'm siting here now, typing away, a bible verse has come to mind, which I think reflects the theme of this book. It's Romans 5: verses 3 to 5.
"We rejoice in our suffering, because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us."
The characters in this book do not internally rejoice in their suffering. Blessan presents a very real picture of their pain, but she also shows readers the value of perseverance because through it, lives can be touched and changed. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for something uplifting, thought-provoking and with characters who get you turning the page.