Another outing with Bookouture‘s Books-on-tour again today, this time to share my review of the rather lovely The Wish List of Albie Young by Ruby Hummingbird: published on 12th November, it’s now available via Amazon for kindle and in paperback. My thanks to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy, provided through netgalley.
Sometimes you have to hit the bottom before you can float to the top.
Maria Birch is seventy years old and, for her, every week is the same.
On Monday, she does her weekly shop. On Tuesday, she goes for a blow-dry. On Wednesday, she visits the laundrette. But Thursday is her favourite day of all – everything hurts less on a Thursday.
Every Thursday Maria walks to her local café. Waiting for her at one of the red gingham-topped tables is Albie Young, a charming man with a twinkle in his eye and an impressive collection of tweed flat caps. Every week, the pair share a slice of marble cake and a pot of tea.
Except, one week, Albie doesn’t turn up.
When Maria finds out what has happened, her perfectly ordered life is ripped apart at the seams. Suddenly, she is very lonely. Without her Thursday friend – her only friend – she no longer has the energy to circle the weekly TV listings, she has no reason to leave her apartment, no reason to laugh.
Then she discovers that Albie isn’t who she thought he was, and she’s left wondering if she knew her friend at all. But Albie has left behind a legacy – a handwritten list of wishes he never got the chance to complete.
Maria is resigned to facing the rest of her days heartbroken and alone. But fulfilling Albie’s wishes could hold the key to her happiness – if only she’s able to look past his secret…
This life-affirming and heartfelt tale is for anyone who has ever looked at their life and wanted more. Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Keeper of Lost Things will love this poignant story, which shows us that for the truest loves, the end is never really the end…
The whole premise for this story is so thoroughly lovely. Maria loses the one small moment of joy in her lonely life when Albie passes away. No more Thursdays at the cafe, sharing a slice of marble cake and a pot of tea, no-one to talk with about the books she’s read or the TV programmes she’s watched, no-one left who cares. But Albie has left a legacy in more ways than one – he had secrets, and a former life Maria knew nothing about. In an attempt to atone for some of the things he might have done wrong, he’s left a list – of people and the actions he’d planned to take to make their lives better. When Maria decides to take on his unfinished list, it changes her life too – and finally makes her ready to face up to some challenges of her own.
The characters Maria encounters are simply wonderful – the homeless man, the girls at the cafe and hairdressers, the teenager who becomes her companion and confidante, the youths at the skate park, Albie’s long lost sister and his old friend, Maria’s beleaguered neighbour – all drawn so well, with real depth and some surprises along the way. There’s a really strong sense of place too – mainly Brighton, but with some rather lovely excursions in pursuit of some of the actions on the list. I will admit I struggled a little with Maria herself at first – she’s 70, which is only a little older than me, but I did find it quite difficult to identify with her. The playing of LPs on her “machine”, her unfamiliarity with technology, the tweed and lace-up shoes, her strict routine, the lavender oil in the Thursday morning bath – she really felt a generation older. But as the story progressed and I got swept along with her voyage of change and discovery, that initial disconnection was entirely forgotten – I grew to love her, and so will everyone who reads her story.
It’s emotional, but beautifully handled and never cloying – and there were the loveliest touches of humour, lightness and unalloyed joy that moved me to tears perhaps even more than its moments of real sadness. I loved its messages, clear and never laboured – that people are sometimes so much more than you see on the surface, life is for living, it’s never too late for change, and that those you love will always be near when you need them most. A really gorgeous book, very different, and quite beautifully written – I loved it.
About the author
Ruby Hummingbird is a novelist based in the English countryside. She loves nothing more than writing uplifting and heartwarming fiction that gets her readers reaching for the tissues. When she isn’t storytelling, she can be found tending to her beloved sunflowers or sipping on hazelnut lattes. The Wish List of Albie Young is her debut novel, and it promises to be a real heartbreaker.