Tuesday, July 13, 2021

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle


Hubert Bird is a reclusive, retired, octogenarian, Jamaican immigrant who’s lived in London the majority of his life, A long-time widower, he misses his beloved wife and his daughter Rose who moved to Australia several years previously. What he doesn’t miss is the racism he faced when he arrived in London and when he married Joyce and her family disowned her because he was black. 

In weekly calls with Rose, Hubert describes a fantasy life of friendships and activities so she won’t worry about him. With her impending visit, Hubert doesn’t know what he’ll do about his deception when new neighbor Ashleigh and her baby appear at his door and won’t take no for an answer.

The book’s premise is similar to that of A Man Called Ove, but Hubert is less irascible and his story is more hopeful despite it not being easy. It’s a sentimental novel but it’s not sappy. I didn’t adore the too tidy ending, but most readers will. 

The book was inspired by author Mike Gayle’s parents’ immigration from Jamaica to London and it reflects their lives with genuine details that make the reader feel how their son cares about their experiences.  Gayle shows his characters in humorous, sad, lonely, and joyful times that made this reader know and care about them. All the Lonely People is a celebration of friendship and of everyday, ordinary people who make a difference. 

Summing It Up: Read All the Lonely People for a feel-good summer read that offers a clever take on intergenerational friendship, race, aging, loneliness, and waking up to life. The characters are engaging and the book belongs in every beach bag. 

Rating: 4 stars

Category: Fiction, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Sweet Bean Paste, Book Club

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Author Website: http://www.mikegayle.co.uk/ 

Interview with the Author: https://thegreatbigbookclub.com/2020/07/16/author-of-the-week-mike-gayle/

Read an Excerpt: https://www.hachette.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/All-the-Lonely-People_extract.pdf

What Others are Saying: 

Kirkus Reviews: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/mike-gayle/all-the-lonely-people-gayle/ 

Publishers Weekly: https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-5387-2016-5

Yorkshire Magazine: https://www.on-magazine.co.uk/arts/book-review/fiction/all-the-lonely-people-mike-gayle/ 

"With a winning main character, this absolutely heartwarming story unfolds with just enough surprises and heft to keep readers engaged. A natural choice for fans of Helen Simonson's Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand or any of the myriad recent books about cranky men finding late-in-life joy."―Booklist

Saturday, July 3, 2021

What a Wonderful World This Could Be by Lee Zacharias


Sometimes, you need to look at others to see yourself. Today, many of us are so certain of our beliefs that we become frozen and incapable of growth. Reading allows us to look into the past and see who we are. What a Wonderful World This Could Be once again showcases author Lee Zacharias’s talents as a writer who “sees” to focus on people who believe so strongly in an ideology that their rigidity casts them adrift. The novel opens in 1982 when Alex, a photographer and professor at a Virginia school, hears her husband Ted’s name on the TV news as she’s leaving the local YMCA after her morning swim. She hasn’t heard from Ted in eleven years and hasn’t known if he was alive since he disappeared. Now she learns that he’s in critical condition after having been shot while turning himself in to authorities. Ted’s reappearance forces Alex to revisit her life and confront her current situation. 

Alex’s single mother, an emotionally distant, uncaring artist and professor at a Midwestern university, paid little attention to Alex and allowed her too much freedom as a child. Alex didn’t learn who her father was until she was ten and he then showed very little interest in her. She sought and found connection at age fifteen when she fell in love with Steve, a 27-year-old photographer working in her mother’s department at the university. From Steve she learned to see both as a budding photographer and as a person. 

Two years later in 1964, she fell for Ted, an activist involved in the Mississippi civil rights struggles and the peace movement. Ted and Alex joined a local group and lived together in a commune-like arrangement that gave Alex a semblance of belonging. When the group was enveloped by radical Weatherman followers and the government charged Ted with a crime, he disappeared and Alex was once again adrift.

While using the lens of her writing, Zacharias hones her eye on the different aspects of the civil rights, peace, and justice movements of the 1960s and how lack of focus on humanity made it possible to avoid connections and sacrifice people for the sake of an ideology. Alex is a metaphor for seeing but not connecting the dots to mature into a fully functional adult. 

Summing It Up: Readers wanting to learn more about the 1960s will find no better guide to the times and the people. Zacharias’s use of a fictional school, based on Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana rings true for the time, place, and people populating it. Her photographic eye captures her characters as they choose whether to see what’s around them or hide in frozen ideas. 

Rating: 4 Stars

Category: Fiction, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Pigeon Pie, Super Nutrition, Book Club

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Author Website: http://leezacharias.com 

Interviews with the Author: 



Read an Excerpt: http://leezacharias.com/books-wonderful-world.htm 

What Others are Saying:

Historical Novel Society: 


Walter Magazine:  https://waltermagazine.com/art-and-culture/new-books-spring-2021/