Walking Back to Happiness
Do you shun all chick lit, believing that it focuses on shopping-mad, twenty-something Londoners jumping from one man to the next, with a host of quirky friends? Then this just might surprise you. Yes, this is set in England (but not in London). And, yes, it definitely includes some quirky secondary characters. But instead of focusing on shopping and a string of boyfriends, our heroine is dealing with the sudden death of her husband, while her sister grapples with real-world marital issues. It got off to a bit of a slow start for me but I quickly grew to care about all of the characters.
The focus shifts between two sisters, Juliet and Louise, who had a falling out just 24 hours before Juliet’s husband died unexpectedly. In the ensuing months they’ve never been able to make things right – actually, they haven’t even tried.
Juliet Falconer is still reeling from her husband’s death. No one expected a seemingly healthy man in his early 30s to drop dead while out on a walk. A former chef, Juliet has completely lost her appetite and her ability to cook. Except for obligatory walks with her dog Minton, Juliet stays holed up in her ramshackle house watching TV.
Juliet’s mother gives her the initial shove back into life by roping her into walking her dog on a regular basis. Soon, almost in spite of herself, Juliet stumbles into other dog walking and cat sitting gigs.
On the surface Louise has everything that Juliet doesn’t: A loving husband, a young son, and a career as an attorney. But things aren’t always what they seem. Louise came close to losing herself while on maternity leave. As she re-enters the workforce, she’s finding it hard to balance her job, her child, and a husband who mainly seems to care for her as a mother for her son.
The book moves slowly, as Juliet and Louise each deal with their problems. I thought the pace fit the depth of the women’s problems. However, if you’re hoping for a quick romance, this really won’t work for you. Louise and her husband have a number of problems that cannot be solved in a few brief paragraphs. Juliet’s grief has crippled her; she’s reluctant to let anyone else into her life. While there is eventually a tentative romance for Juliet, the book is really more about the journey of Juliet and Louise.
Neither Juliet nor Louise is perfect. They both carry secrets they feel guilty about and at times each comes across as being selfish. But they also feel very real and I ultimately liked each of them. I did want to knock Juliet over the head a few times for failing to recognize just how wonderful Lorcan – a rather mysterious man who lives with her neighbors – is.
In addition to having a deft hand with creating believable, interesting human characters, the author does a wonderful job of giving the dogs and cats that Juliet cares for their own unique personalities.
Without giving away any spoilers, there were a few incidents late in the book that were just too coincidental for me. I thought some of Juliet and Louise’s problems could have been resolved without them, but they didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.
This is the first book I’ve read by the author, but it won’t be the last. I’m now in search of her backlist, and will definitely pick up her next book when it’s available.