I’m really delighted today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of Saving Missy by Beth Morrey. Published by Harper Collins in hardback, audiobook and as an ebook on 6th February 2020, it’s now also available – at long last – as a paperback. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
I do have a slightly guilty confession to make – I first read this lovely book over a year ago, but for all sorts of life-related reasons just never got round to writing a review. I’d heard the author chatting on Radio 2 with Kate and Jason one Sunday morning, read a few early reviews, and could tell straight away that it was the book for me. And when I put it down at the end, blew my nose, wiped my eyes, and allowed myself to smile at the perfect ending, I was so delighted I’d grasped the opportunity to read something just because I wanted to – this book was quite wonderful. And then… well, I’m so sorry I never told anyone about it at the time, but it’s lovely to have a second opportunity.
Prickly. Stubborn. Terribly lonely. But everyone deserves a second chance…
Missy Carmichael’s life has become small.
Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.
Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this; not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new.
Another life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?
There are quite a few books around these days that focus on the loneliness and isolation of the elderly – I know, because I often choose to read them, always delighted that it’s a subject increasingly finding its way into popular fiction. But I must say that you’ll rarely find the issue addressed as well as it is in this book. We all know a Missy – although we might barely notice her as she lingers over her coffee at the table in the cafe, talking to no-one, before returning to an echoing empty house. And, although intelligent, well-educated and articulate (although her sharper edges might be off-putting to some), she’s really been pretty invisible for most of her life, as the celebrated Leo Carmichael’s wife and mother to his children.
But something happens to change her life – a solitary visit to the park so that she has something (debatably) “exciting” to mention in her emails to her son Alistair (in Australia, together with the grandson who might make her life more complete – and her daughter Melanie might be closer, but certainly not a significant part of her life). Some chance meetings, some tentative friendships, and then a cautious decision to let other people in. She slowly finds support and discovers the healing power of friendship – and that she too has more to offer others than she ever imagined.
Missy’s a wonderful character, as we find out about the life she’s lived as well as watching her every faltering footstep into her new one – I was surprised to see that some readers didn’t take to her, but maybe it was partly because there was much about her that I recognised and identified with. Her new companions are a mixed bunch, a wonderfully drawn and developed cast – Angela in particular was one that I found more “difficult”, but the characterisation is excellent. There’s a lot in this book about not judging people by first impressions, and the need to be open to new experiences: but there’s also a lot about Missy herself that takes you by surprise too – one big secret that’s cast a shadow over her life, and one major plot twist that plays with your own preconceptions.
There are wonderful “moments” and set pieces throughout the book that the term “laugh out loud” was rather made for, when characters (especially Missy herself) behave entirely out of character – although the laughter is sometimes precisely because they don’t. Emotionally, the book has that perfect touch – moments of sadness and loss, times when you really ache, immensely moving, but beautifully balanced by that humour and lightness. It’s both uplifting and life-affirming, and a quite wonderful journey to reach that point – I really loved this book, and unreservedly recommend it to everyone.
“Bittersweet, tender, thoughtful and uplifting… I loved it.” Nina Stibbe, Reasons to be Cheerful
“A beautiful story about love, loss, guilt and the power of friendship.” Jill Mansell, Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay
“Truly a book for our times, a heartfelt reminder of the affirmative joy of not just being kind to others, but also to yourself…” Piers Torday, The Last Wild
“The most beautiful and the most moving book I’ve read in a long time.” Emma Flint, Little Deaths
“A joyful, tender, life affirming STUNNER of a book” Cressida McLaughlin, The House of Birds and Butterflies
About the author
Beth Morrey is currently the Creative Director at RDF Television where she has been involved in numerous productions – she helped create The Secret Life of Four Year Olds series on Channel 4 and devised 100 Year Old Drivers for ITV.
She was shortlisted for the Grazia-Orange First Chapter competition back in 2011, had her work published in the Cambridge and Oxford May Anthologies, and was Vice-President of the Cambridge Footlights.
Beth lives in London with her husband, two sons and dog.