The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

thewisdomThe Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is another book that’s slightly out of my comfort zone but I really enjoyed the Keeper of Lost Things last year and so decided to give this one a shot.  There’s no elements of fantasy in this at all.  It’s a story of loss, guilt, redemption and it has a strong thread of hope in terms of self forgiveness and allowing yourself to live on after terrible events have created sadness and loss.

The story revolves around a central character called Masha.  You can feel Masha’s overwhelming sadness even though at this point you’re unclear as to what is the cause.  Hogan writes emotions so well.  It feels like Masha is drowning in despair and guilt and her feelings very much flood over into the lives of her surrounding friends and family causing them too to suffer alongside her.  It’s like Masha feels too guilty to live and in some respects almost pushes herself to the brink.  But, before I make this sound too overwhelming, things begin to slowly change in the subtlest ways.  Primarily with the introduction of new friends into Masha’s life, friends who she can open up to finally and actually begin to forgive herself and allow her own life to continue.  I suppose there’s something about sharing stories and in doing so lightening the load.

I don’t really need to say too much about the plot.  This isn’t a convoluted story and I don’t want to give too much away.  There is a side plot to the story that introduces a mysterious element to the tale  To be honest, I’m not totally sure this element was really necessary although I can see why the author would wish to include it.

I liked Masha.  She has a lovely family and friends although in her presence they’re all on pins a little, like they’re afraid to laugh in case it breaks her somehow or they simply don’t know how to handle the situation.  I guess grief brings out the awkwardness.  I really enjoyed watching Masha go through a kind of metamorphosis and finally allow herself to begin feeling again.

The story is full of quirky and eccentric characters, the writing is accomplished and the settings veer between social events that Masha is strong armed into attending, her time spent at the local lido which is at once where she tortures herself with memories and also the place where she finally learns to live again, and the cemetery.   I loved Masha’s time spent in the cemetery with her large hairy hound.  I find cemeteries quite fascinating to be honest so I loved this aspect to the story, almost like I’d found a like minded character.

In terms of criticisms.  Like I mentioned, I really don’t think the parallel plot was necessary.  I think the story could have stood on it’s own two feet as it was – a story of loss and redemption, the additional element felt a little sensational and, to be honest, a tiny bit predictable.  It didn’t spoil the story for me but even now, having sat on this review, I still don’t feel like it was needed.

On the whole, and personal preferences to one side, this is a lovely read.  I didn’t enjoy it as much as Hogan’s first work but I still think it was a quick and easy read and managed to really pack emotion into the tale.

As I mentioned, this isn’t my usual type of novel but if you want something charming quirky and hopeful this could make a very enjoyable summer read.

I received a copy from the publisher, courtesy of Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.