Cover Image: The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

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Requested this one for my mum and she loved it, sped through in a few days and we are buying a copy to share around
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I received a copy of this book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion.

The first thing you notice is the cover. Very pretty! I love a detailed book cover. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, is pretty heavy as it deals with death and grief. Something we all will how to have to go through in life. When one mentions death it's usually a mood killer. However, I found reading this book, grounding and gets you to appreciate life. While reading I laughed, I cried, I was in deep thought. I call that a good book. 

This is my first book, by Ruth Hogan. I enjoyed her writing style and her depth of characters.  Would recommend!
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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan is the kind of book that I would describe as a warm hug. You get yourself completely involved with the intricacies of the lives of the characters and after you have turned the final page there is a nice feeling of satisfaction.

It is a multi-perspective story yet all the characters have lives that interconnect. The main character is Masha is suffering with a loss however it is through her relationships with other people that she can finally start to let go of the past. These fabulous characters show her that there is a future but also a present. 

I really enjoyed reading The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes. It was a heart-warming story which makes you reflect on any sadness that you are holding on to. It is the kind of book that makes you feel better – even when you didn’t feel like you were holding on to anything in particular. That is the power of Ruth Hogan’s The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan is available now.

For more information regarding Ruth Hogan (@ruthmariehogan) please visit
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Masha has been trapped in the past for twelve years, ever since her young son toddled away from her and drowned in a tragic accident. When she goes to the lido every morning, it isn't to swim, to make her body strong, but to force herself underwater and to stay to the very point of drowning, so that she can understand what he would have felt. When she visits her loyal, supportive friends - playing the part of a functioning grown-up - everyone knows that there are some subjects which must be avoided. One of the few ways that Masha finds peace is in her daily walk through the rambling local cemetery, with her lolloping dog Haizum, where she conjures up fanciful histories for the people whose graves she passes. And it's here, in the cemetery, that she encounters an eccentric old woman who, quite unexpectedly, opens Masha's eyes to the possibility of joy. This is a heartwarming tale of old friends, new friends and new starts, which sometimes strays dangerously close to being mawkish, but might well leave a tear in your eye.

Somewhere across town, Alice lives with her teenage son Mattie. While Masha is trying to come to terms with the loss of her son, Alice is struggling with the prospect of losing hers. She and Mattie have always been a team and Alice has loved him fiercely, tenaciously, focusing all her energies on protecting the one precious child who arrived after a spate of miscarriages. But now Mattie is growing up and becoming more independent, tugging at the bonds that were formerly so tight between them, and Alice herself is newly aware of living on borrowed time. How can she make everything right?

Most of our time, however, is spent with Masha as she strolls in the cemetery, visiting her favourite graves and watching the batty old woman who she's christened Sally Red Shoes. Sally feeds the crows and sometimes sings, but is just as likely to come out with a foul-mouthed tirade when approached (delivered, however, with a radiant smile). Their friendship, at first cautious, develops in tandem with changes elsewhere in Masha's life. Her beloved friend Edward has fallen in love, and Masha herself is fascinated by a fellow swimmer at the lido. Does she dare to change? Does change mean betrayal for those left behind, or is there another way to remember? Sally Red Shoes thinks there is. As she tells Masha in one of her more lucid moments, 'When the music ends for someone you love you don't stop dancing. You dance for them as well.' Masha considers. She dares to take the first small step out of her claustrophobic world of loss. And that step offers her a key to a world that's suddenly full of possibility, inhabited by wonderful and inspirational people who might just give Masha the courage to love and live again. 

I couldn't help feeling that there was something rather Working Title about this novel. It tells the story of prosperous people who don't seem to go to work very much and, when they do, turn out to have chic professions, working in elegant offices with cheerfully offbeat colleagues. The plot unfurls through dinner parties, social comedy and amateur dramatics, and the heroine has a gang of loving but quirky friends who nudge her towards self-fulfilment. Some plot developments are visible from a mile away. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I like Working Title films: I watch Love Actually every Christmas. But, if you don't gel with that particular brand of cosy sentimentality, this novel might not be to your taste: just a warning. Personally, I did enjoy it. I warmed to the secondary characters, especially Kitty Muriel, with her glamour and optimism, and Masha is well-crafted, even if it took me longer to bond with her. For me, the weakest part of the plot was Alice's story, which feels very one-dimensional compared to the richer story woven around Masha. Alice herself is more plot device than character, and the end of the story feels too much like the careful tying up of loose ends - though Hogan deals with a momentous development delicately and well, by keeping it off-stage. 

Oddly enough, the main legacy of this book has been to give me a new appreciation of cemeteries. Thanks to the lockdown, we've rediscovered our own local cemeteries as good places to walk and relax, and I've started looking more closely at the names and stories on the stones (discovering some immensely poor Victorian poetry in the process). I love the idea of creating personalities and histories for people who are now little more than a name, and Masha's flights of fancy are delightful. When the lockdown is over and we can travel more freely, I'd love to head out to the sprawling Victorian cemeteries at Highgate and Kensal Rise, to do some exploring for myself.

A warm, generous, resolutely 'feel good' book, compassionate and full of hope. In grim times like the present, maybe this is exactly what you need.

This review will be published on my blog on 6 May 2020 at the following link:
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I loved this story of grief and sorrow and escaping their hold on you.  The quirky characters added an interesting and mysterious touch to the story.
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Terrific book.  Absolutely loved it.  Compelling characters and story line.  Kept me interested the entire time.
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I was absolutely delighted to be given the opportunity to read and review this novel after falling in love with Ruth Hogan’s previous novel, The Keeper of Lost Things.

Unfortunately I found myself having a very difficult time piecing all the characters together and found the story to be a bit too disconnected to fully hold my interest. I found myself rereading multiple chapters to piece all the stories together. 

Fortunately, I did have friends who were delighted with this novel after my recommendation of Ruth Hogan novels. 

I appreciate the opportunity by Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books to read this novel. I look forward to reading upcoming Ruth Hogan novels!
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Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes. I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is the story of three women, told in a manner that is disjointed at best. Masha has been suffering for twelve years, ever since it was presumed that her toddler son died in a drowning accident. Although her friends have tried to help her move forward, Masha must first come to terms with what happened that fateful day. She crosses paths with Sally at the local cemetery, a woman who at first glance seems to not be in control of all of her faculties. The third perspective is that of Alice, a woman nearing an untimely death with a big secret and regret that she has yet to reveal. Alice's story does not intersect until the end of the novel, as she comes to certain realizations about herself and her life.

The biggest issue that I had with this novel was that it was not compelling, although the subject matter promised to be. I wanted to feel Masha's grief, Sally's complexity, and Alice's regrets, but their characters never truly came to life. As the story unfolds, the author reveals too much for the ending to be a complete surprise. I was not pulled into anyone's story, perhaps because of the constant switching between perspectives. Overall, I was not blown away by the novel and I am hesitant to recommend The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes to other readers.
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Thank you NetGalley and Publisher for the early copy!

I had a hard time connecting with the plot/writing style and decided to put this one down.
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I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2020 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at 
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Masha goes to the community pool every morning and considers going under and not coming back up. She is consumed by grief after the death of her son. One day, she decides to open up just a little to the local eccentric who spends her days at the graveyard. Another woman is consumed with grief as well, although her grief is for something that hasn't happened yet. Alice doesn't know if she will survive after being diagnosed with cancer, and she is desperately looking for some way to care for her teenage son after she is gone.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a sweet story about community carrying us through grief and pain. While tragedy can be isolating, this book reminds us that we can reach out and find people who are willing to be with us in our darkest moments. It didn't draw me in quite as much as Hogan's debut novel The Keeper of Lost Things, but we still get to meet quirky characters and experience a story that deals with difficult issues without devastating its reader.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes
By Ruth Hogan
Crooked Lane Books June 2019
320 pages
Read via Netgalley
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Life isn’t always fair, and grieving the loss of a child is especially devastating.  This book is a reminder to be gentle and kind to your fellow man, it makes a big difference in their lives.  The sun will come out after the storm.  I found this book sad and inspiring at once.
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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes was an unusual, whimsical story, of a mother lost in grief, finding light in her life again. Thank you NetGalley for the copy for my review, all opinions are my own.
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Solid writing and some interesting characters. For some reason, it seemed the story of the most intriguing character (Sally) was too glossed over, and the ending seemed rushed. Lots of agony along the way...then suddenly, happily ever after. I felt a little flat and let down.
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I have decided to dnf this book for now. I may pick it up again at some point, but I have tried several times this year and can not get into. Unfortunately, right now is not the right time for me to try again, so I need to move along. I have purchased The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan and hope to have better luck with that one.
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This story was slow getting started for me, not liking the ramblings of many of the side characters. I found the second half better, with some little gems of wisdom and humor, the writing crafted well enough but when I got to the ending I just shook my head and thought “what?”
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Masha has never moved on from the loss of her son,  years later still feeling the distress and guilt that she couldn't save him,  so she spends her life with her dog not moving on.  That is until she meets Sally Red Shoes, who is a bag lady that sings arias in the cemetery!  Gradually Sally,  Kitty and Edward help Masha to move on and start living again

A lovely story,  obviously sad at times, but with great larger than life characters who you would want to be friends with,  a book definitely more about the people than major story lines
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The cheery cover, reminiscent of a Rifle Paper Co. design, belies the tough topics and eccentric characters in the book. It took me a couple chapters to get into, as Ruth Hogan paints beautiful pictures with her words and I had just come down from the high of a fast-paced thriller. Once I settled into the rhythm of this novel, though, I couldn't put it down and finished in less than a day. 

Masha lost her son more than a decade ago, and is still punishing herself- grieving his death and her inability to save him.  All hope seems lost, and Masha has resigned herself to live in mourning. Until she meets two women who change her life. The peculiar Sally red shoes is a woman who spends her days feeding birds in the cemetery, singing to gravestones, and often greets Masha with a four-letter word-- said with a smile, thanks to a jumbled up vocabulary. And Kitty Muriel, is an elderly sexpot in a new romance with the town Elvis. 

Each woman has something to teach Masha... but will be able to stop merely existing and start living?
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DNF @ 36%

Everything is fine with this book - I simply DNFed it because it was too rough a topic for me. It's about a woman whose child has died and she nearly killed herself over it (not a spoiler), and now lives in the aftermath. There's other stuff going on too, and it was just making me too anxious. I've been trying to read it for some 4 months now and I just can't force myself to come back to it.

Other than that, it reads nicely and it's probably a great book. But not for me.

I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
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2 stars

You can read all of my book reviews at

I couldn't get into this book. Perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind to read it. It's a quiet, character driven book, and you have to be in the right mood to read those kinds of books. I just found it a chore to pick up, couldn't get a flow going and finally gave up at about 40%. The story is about a woman's struggle with grief, and perhaps it wasn't the right book to pick up shortly after my mother passed away. A lot of people seemed to really like it, so I will probably go back another time and give it another try. I'm very sorry that I can't give it a full review at this time.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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