A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write again; only this time she must tell Harold everything. In confessing to secrets she has hidden for twenty years, she will find atonement for the past. As the volunteer points out, 'Even though you've done your travelling, you're starting a new journey too.'
Queenie thought her first letter would be the end of the story. She was wrong. It was the beginning. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)
My Review: I must admit that I came into this book with some very heavy expectations. I really enjoyed the first book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and so I really wanted this one to live up to that. It’s so hard with sequels. So many times they just don’t deliver like they should. A lot of times they just don’t deliver like they should.
I was pleasantly surprised by the writing in this book. I believe that Joyce is a talented writer. I really enjoy her ability to tell a beautiful story without all the wordiness. I would describe her writing as “gentle.” A lot gets said, a lot gets told, but it’s almost like you’re just going along for the journey and learning it. It’s really quite awesome.
This book is sad, as you might imagine. If you’ve read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (and if you haven’t, you should) then you know that Queenie is dying in a nursing home while she waits for Harold Fry to come. With this environment comes a lot of sadness—there’s just no way to avoid it, really. There’s also loneliness and hopelessness and pain, but there is also a lot of fun and there are some very hilarious people and situations. I found myself really enjoying reading about the shenanigans of the people living in Queenie’s nursing home. So I guess it’s a lot like real life, really. There are funny people, there are funny situations, but there are sad times, too. It just is what it is.
So did this book live up to my expectations? Well, I have to say that in some ways it did and in some ways it didn’t. One thing that I found to be confusing was that I felt like I almost knew too much. With The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry some of what is magical about it is that you don’t know what’s happening. The whole back story is there, you can feel it, but the mystique of it is almost as important as the knowing. In The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy we learn a lot of the back story, and that’s maybe not what I wanted, even though I thought I did. I could see that it would be realistic in the way Joyce created it—it’s not like it couldn’t have been there—but it certainly lost some of its subtlety. Also, I wasn’t really sure I wanted Queenie to love Harold in the way she did. I’ll leave that there and let you read it.
So, yeah, I did like this book. I thought it was beautiful and sad and a good counterpart to the first book. I’m glad I read it, even though maybe I wished I didn’t know some of what I learned. I don’t think it’s as good as the first book (although it gets better ratings on Goodreads), but it’s certainly a good companion.
My Rating: 3.5 stars
For the sensitive reader: There is some language in this book, as well as an incident of suicide.