The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan
ABOUT THE BOOK
Masha is drowning.
Once a spirited, independent woman with a rebellious streak, her life has been forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago.
Unable to let go of her grief, she finds solace in the silent company of the souls of her local Victorian cemetery and at the town’s lido, where she seeks refuge underwater–safe from the noise and the pain.
But a chance encounter with two extraordinary women–the fabulous and wise Kitty Muriel, a convent girl-turned-magician’s wife-turned-seventy-something-roller-disco-fanatic, and the mysterious Sally Red Shoes, a bag lady with a prodigious voice–opens up a new world of possibilities, and the chance to start living again.
Until the fateful day when the past comes roaring back…
Masha and Alice are two different women with two different lives but have one thing in common…
They say that just before you die your entire life flashes in front of you, but for me it is a single fragment. That instant when I woke up and he was gone.
Masha’s guilt from the tragedy of losing her son in a drowning incident has placed her in a state of penance by swimming underwater at the local lido and “playing chicken with death”. Her daily visits to the graves of her ‘Family on the Other Side’ in the local cemetery with her trusted Irish Wolfhound, Haizum, is her sanctuary away from the mournful eyes of strangers. When she meets “Sally Red Shoes”, an eccentric woman there who sings beautifully to the dead while feeding the crows, her life begins to change for the better.
She would try to hide it from Mattie for as long as she could, but her past had finally caught up with her and now she would have to pay a catastrophic price.
Alice’s life has been secluded and secretive to protect her son she loves so much, but her secrets will have to be revealed once she receives tragic news. Will he forgive her?
The characterization is extremely well done giving the reader a look into desperate lives and healing hearts. Masha and Alice may have different lives, but they would do anything for their child. I enjoy the supporting characters of Edward, Masha’s best friend, and Kitty, Masha’s magnificent and confident new friend who can relate to her grief.
Hogan adds some great character quirks and originality to the story such as Masha’s unusual and comical relationship with her car named Edith Piaf, and her “words of the day” which are interesting and informative.
I love this book! Though it has some dark undertones, the story is about atonement, renewal, and discovery. It is about friendship and loneliness; life and death. Highly recommend.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As a child, I loved the Brownies but hated the Guides, was obsessed with ponies and read everything I could lay my hands on. Luckily, my mum worked in a bookshop. My favourite reads were The Moomintrolls, A Hundred Million Francs, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the back of cereal packets, and gravestones.
I passed enough O and A levels to get a place at Goldsmiths College, University of London, to study English and Drama. It was brilliant and I loved it.
And then I got a proper job.
I worked for ten years in a senior local government position (Human Resources–Recruitment, Diversity, and Training). I was a square peg in a round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage.
In my early thirties, I had a car accident which left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously. I got a part-time job as an osteopath’s receptionist and spent all my spare time writing. It was all going well, but then in 2012, I got Cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing, and the eventual result was The Keeper of Lost Things.
I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering husband. I spend all my free time writing or thinking about it and have notebooks in every room so that I can write down any ideas before I forget them. I am a magpie; always collecting treasures (or ‘junk’ depending on your point of view) and a huge John Betjeman fan. My favourite word is antimacassar and I still like reading gravestones.