The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy; Rachel Joyce
2015 -Random House
Rachel Joyce's first book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (2012), is a book which made my top reads list for that year. In that story her protagonist, Harold who had recently retired receives a letter from an old friend who tells him she is dying. Harold feels compelled to walk 600+ miles to see his old friend before she passes away.
In The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, it's Queenie's turn to tell her story before she passes away from cancer. The last time she had ever seen her friend Harold she left Kingsbridge without even saying goodbye. Now from her hospice room with the help of Sister Mary Innoconnu, Queenie shares her story. How she met Harold, how she came to know Harold's son David who has since died and her relationship with him, and her fond memories of the years she has spent at her beach house sea garden in Embleton Bay. Most important for Queenie though is unburdening herself of one particular event which had an impact on the rest of her life.
As Queenie shares her story, periodic postcards arrive at the hospice from Harold as he continues his journey to see Queenie one last time.
For readers of Joyce's earlier book, there are many new revelations to experience through Queenie. Reflective in tone, there is sadness, but also humor to be found. I especially loved the descriptions of her life and solitude living by the sea and tending her garden.The author has created a cast of interesting and quirky characters from the hospice where Queenie now resides. She skillfully tells the final stories of others who are dying in a respectful manner as well. The story is not written in traditional letter format, but nonetheless packs an emotional punch. I'm not sure this novel will make my tops list for 2015, but it is still a very good story. I would recommend reading Harold's story first though, if you have not already done so.