It’s a real pleasure today to share my review of a wonderful book that I might never have discovered had its author, Anne Patterson, not contacted me. Yes was published on 26th October 2017 by Silvertail Books – available for kindle (perhaps one of the best 99p purchases you could hope to make) and in paperback. When Anne sent me a copy of the e-book to review, I checked that the file had worked ok on transferring it to my kindle – and, with so many other books awaiting my attention, really had to force myself to put it down at the end of the first chapter. Just 230 pages long, this quiet little book is absolute perfection, and really deserves a much wider readership.
Maureen McCormack wakes up in hospital after a stroke. Her memory is fragmented and she can say only one word – yes. Friends, family and lovers visit her, filling silences with secrets and learning to open up as Maureen learns to listen.
As the revelations mount, she and those around her attempt to come to terms with all that has been left unsaid and unexamined, and her view of life shifts fundamentally. When Maureen’s ability to speak returns she decides to keep it a secret until she has made sense of her past and gathered the strength to shape her future.
Yes is a captivating novel about how relationships grow, disintegrate and heal, showing what happens when people really listen to each other.
I unreservedly loved this book. As Maureen recovers from her stroke, we’re privileged to hear her internal voice as she meanders through the memories of her life – her loves, her losses, her moments of joy and heartbreak, her childhood, her adolescence, her marriage, her family and her relationships – as she struggles to say more than “yes” to the stream of visitors who sit by her bed. Everyone who visits fills the silence by sharing secrets they feel safe unloading – and we also find that Maureen has secrets of her own that she has never shared.
The key relationship in this book is perhaps with her sister Shirley, a relationship neglected in adulthood, and it’s an absolute fascination watching their sisterly bond and former closeness rediscovered: she’s a wonderful character, a whirlwind of perfume and hairspray, and the source of much of the book’s gentle humour (particularly in relation to her dysfunctional marriage). But every single character in this book is exquisitely drawn – from the hospital staff, with their conversations over the hospital bed (and I particularly loved the cheery speech therapist), to Maureen’s family, past and present, and the other significant people who figure in her life. Her daughter Jackie has Down’s Syndrome – their love for each other is palpable, very moving, and demonstrated with light and beautiful touches and exchanges.
Maureen’s own voice – her internal one – is wholly consistent and authentic: I took her to my heart, and it was a real joy sharing both the memories of her life and her experiences during her largely silent recovery. I must mention the story’s backdrop too, quite beautifully drawn – the little details of day-to-day life on the farm, the touches of nature, the Irish religious divide always present, real life events gently dropped in to indicate the timing.
You might just expect this book, with its subject matter, to be a tad depressing – but it’s actually the total opposite. At times, it’s extremely funny, always full of warmth, and has so much perfectly judged observational humour – at other times, Maureen’s memories and experiences will break your heart. Delicately balanced, beautifully written, a very real woman at its centre with a lifetime of experience and so many stories to tell – and one of the very best books I’ve read this year. Do give it a try…
About the author
Anne Patterson is from County Antrim. She lives in London and works for the NHS. Yes is her first novel.
You can follow Anne on Twitter @Patterson13Anne