It’s such a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for Below the Big Blue Sky by Anna McPartlin: published by Zaffre Books on 23rd July, it’s now available for kindle, in hardcover and as an audiobook, with the paperback to follow in February 2021. My thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
I’ve never forgotten Rabbit Hayes. I read her story back in early 2015 – you’ll find my review here. I’ll just repeat my closing sentence: “It’s a long time since I’ve come across a book that I’ve loved so much, and which affected me so deeply – it absolutely took my breath away.” So I’m guessing you can imagine how much I was looking forward to this one… but, with the recent loss of my mum, the timing for my reading really couldn’t have been much worse if I’d tried…
From the bestselling author of The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes comes a huge-hearted novel about death, family and finding laughter in the most unexpected of places.
When forty-year-old Rabbit Hayes dies, she leaves behind a family broken by grief. Her mother Molly is distraught and in danger of losing her faith. Her father Jack spends hour upon hour in the family attic, poring over his old diaries, losing himself in the past.
Rabbit’s brother Davey finds himself suddenly guardian to her twelve-year-old daughter Juliet. Juliet might be able to fill a hole in Davey’s heart – but how can he help Juliet through her grief when he can barely cope with his own?
Meanwhile, Rabbit’s sister Grace is struggling with the knowledge that she carries the same gene that made her sister ill, and Rabbit’s best friend Marjorie is lost, struggling to remain a part of a family she has always wished was her own now that her link to them is gone.
But even though the Hayes family are all fighting their own battles, they are drawn together by their love for Rabbit, and their love for each other. In the years that follow her death they find new ways to celebrate and remember her, to find humour and hope in the face of tragedy, and to live life to its fullest, as Rabbit would have wanted.
Below the Big Blue Sky will make you laugh, cry and shout with joy for the colourful, unruly Hayes family as they battle with the loss of their beloved Rabbit, the daughter, mother, sister and friend, who in her own crazy way taught each of them how to live, and goes on showing them how to love from beyond the grave.
I’m going to start with a massive apology to the author, the publishers and tour organiser – I just couldn’t read this book through to its end. If I tell you that I returned from the interment of mum’s ashes to join Rabbit lying in her open coffin in the rearranged dining room surrounded by her wonderful family, I hope you’ll all understand why. Having sobbed through the book up to that point – but laughed so much through the tears – the sealing of her coffin finally broke me and I couldn’t make myself follow her to the funeral at Glasnevin.
But even though I’m going to have to return to this book later to read it through to its end – and I’ll share my full review as soon as I do – I loved what I did read entirely without reservation. Anna McPartlin creates the most wonderful characters, and it was so very good to be back in their company: I don’t think you need to have read the first book to love this one, but I really would recommend that you read them as a pair, just because.
And she writes with sheer love – none of her characters are perfect in any way, but my goodness, she makes you feel so much for every single one of them. The humour is just perfect – at times entirely inappropriate but at the same time absolutely right. The author’s use of dialogue – giving shape to her characters, revealing their personalities and inner feelings, is every bit as stunning as it ever was. And there are those little touches that break you – Rabbit’s father going “out to lunch”, the choosing of the right clothes for the viewing of the open coffin, the holding of her hand. Daughter Juliet’s grief – no longer Bunny – totally broke my heart, particularly that small fleck of blood found on the skirting board.
I’ll stop there – it broke my heart that I had to set the book aside, but I’m so looking forward to trying it once more when I feel a little stronger. Anna McPartlin, you are just magnificent – and I’ll never forget Rabbit.
About the author
I’m an Irish novelist and a TV scriptwriter. Currently with 7 fiction titles available to buy online and one children’s title under the name Bannie McPartlin. As of August 2019 I’ve just finished writing Under The Big Blue Sky, the follow up to international best selling title The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes. This title will be published by Bonnier Zaffre and will be available UK & IRE and Amazon Summer 2020.
My previous short incarnation as a stand-up comedian left an indelible mark. I’m described by all who know me as a slave to the joke and my work focuses on humour and humanity in even the darkness situations.
So if you’d like to take a trip to the dark side and if you are a fan of big, bold characters check out my titles and I hope you enjoy.
PS – If you are not a fan of moderate to severe cursing, best to move on. Either way good luck to you.