The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes – Ruth Hogan

Having devoured The Keeper of Lost Things last year, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Ruth Hogan’s next book The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes!

In this quietly powerful novel we follow Masha, a woman whose life was drastically altered by a tragic event twelve years ago. She is surrounded by a cast of larger than life characters, who I knew right away were going to hold a special place in my heart! We meet the fabulous Kitty Muriel (who lives life to its fullest), Masha’s beloved dog Haizum (who sniffs out any food a mile off) and of course the free-spirited and unconventional Sally Red Shoes (who sings opera to the gravestones in the local cemetery). As Masha’s story unfolds, we see her slowly begin to slot the pieces of her life back together.

Another story runs alongside Masha’s – that of teenager Mattie and his mum Alice (who embarrasses him at times, but clearly loves him immensely). This for me was one of the most interesting parts of the plot, as I tried to guess how these two stories were going to come together.

What I love most about Ruth Hogan’s novels are the windows which lure us into story after story. In The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, Masha creates imagined pasts for the souls she visits in the local cemetery, just as the treasure trove of misplaced items in Keeper of Lost Things conjured up stories of their owners. I am always left with the feeling that while this is the particular story being told today, everyone has their own story worth telling.

I also love how much Hogan’s writing makes you feel. Her novel addresses some really important and tough issues, such as grief, loss, mental health – and the sections dealing with these are extremely raw and emotive. But at the heart of the novel is such celebration for life – the everyday, hugely varied lives we all live. And most importantly, the relationships and connections that we make throughout our lives. Sometimes, like Masha, we perhaps don’t see them until we look a little closer. But they are there and they are what makes our lives worth living.

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