Review published on May 18, 2018.
This is a poignant narration on grief, friendship and courage and I’d rate it as 3.5 stars. I haven’t read anything by this author before, and intend to read her first book shortly, so I did enjoy this enough to read more. There were a few thoughts I had as I listened where things grated on me, but overall, I found this moving, with a few shocking moments.
The majority of the story is Masha’s, a woman who lost her child over a decade ago and has not been able to recover from the associated grief since. In a parallel narrative, Alice is almost smothering her own teenage son with love and going through her own difficulties. Masha meets two older women, the Sally Red Shoes of the title as well as the irrepressible ‘free spirit’ Kitty Muriel, who both may have some lessons to teach her from their own long lives.
I admit, I burst into noisy, messy tears while out jogging listening to this. Some moments were unbelievably heart-breaking. Listening to the scene in which Masha loses her little boy was very hard to picture and to read. There are characters I liked as well; I understood Masha’s pain, I enjoyed Kitty’s open, loving nature. But there were also aspects that exasperated me; it’s not usual to have two exemplars, two ‘guardian angels’, for a character to learn from, and I did feel at times that Sally didn’t add that much to the story, that her story and character could have been subsumed into Kitty’s or taken out, as Kitty was very much the stronger of the two. It took me until nearly the end to understand the point of Alice and her story; again, it seemed extraneous, even as a counterpoint to Masha and her son’s relationship, despite the moving story happening for Alice and her son Mattie. Saying that, this does change very suddenly at the end – which also brings us up short, leaving no wind-down or epilogue – it’s an unanticipatedly swift conclusion. One that leaves many questions unanswered and relies on coincidences.
On the whole, it’s a bittersweet and uplifting story of a woman moving through the stages of grief, though the last few chapters psychologically pull some of that apart. I hear wonderful things about Hogan’s debut and I look forward to trying it, and I’ll likely be listening to it as well. This story made a very gratifying audio-read, with two voices provided for Alice and Masha, though I found initially that I wasn’t always sure from the voice alone whose story I was listening to; I needed context from the text to clarify who it was that was speaking to me, as both were clear and smooth readers, but not different enough to be instantly recognisable. The story itself was easy enough to follow as an audiobook.
Katy Noyes 3/4
The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan
Two Roads B07144234T audiobook May 2018