The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 May 2019

Member Reviews

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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Wow what a book. I loved it and struggled through it at the same time. It’s the story of Masha who for many years has grieved the death of her son and who is walking through an awakening in learning to live while still grieving largely in part because of the eccentric woman named Sally who Masha meets in a cemetery and who truly impacts her life. 

It’s also the story of Alice, a mother, and her son. Her life in intertwined with Mashas in ways that are fairly clear but more apparent at the end. I’ll say no more other than it’s a great read. Hard, if you’ve ever lost someone – reading an entire book about death is never easy – but still good. Recommend for sure.
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It's going to be hard to top this read. Maybe it was because I resemble the main character so much. Her affinity with all things death and cemeteries, her minimal ability to interact with strangers, right down to the swimming. It was all me. Or maybe it was the absolutely magical writing that engaged me so well. Or maybe it was because I sobbed, several times, until I was completely snotty. I think it was all just a perfect combination of the perfect story for me. I will warn, it is not an easy read. It's full of deep, raw emotion and all consuming grief. But, for me - I love, love, loved it.
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3.5 stars, rounded up
This is a sweet book, I have come to like and appreciate Hogan's writing, she fills it with so much life and love and the reader can't help but root for the characters to triumph over their adversities.
In this book, there's one story thread that's a bit too convenient and I saw where it was going from a mile away. Not that it still wasn't touching, I just wanted a bit more of a twist rather than something predictable.
I loved Masha, everything about her is endearing and made me adore her character. I also loved Edward and Sally Red Shoes and everyone in their circles. Like I said, it's a very sweet story and I will definitely continue to seek Hogan's books out in the future.
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I somehow missed the big part Sally Red Shoes played in the book. Sure she was a cute character but I didn't see her as being pivotal to how Masha, the woman who lost her son, faced life. If anything, Kitty's flamboyant character seemed to play a larger roll. The story, however, was sweet and the characters were endearing. It was easy to figure out what was happening and what was going to happen, but that helped make for an easy read. This one doesn't require a lot of strong attention and would be perfect for beaches and vacations.
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I could not get in to this book. I had to stop reading it. I was disappointed because I liked the premise of the book - but I could not get in to the story.
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I have been a fan of Ruth Hogan’s work since I read The Keeper of Lost Things which I loved. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes was a quite a different story but Hogan’s flair and writing style remained constant. Two very different women come together in this story to create magic in this uplifting tale of wisdom, personal growth and grief. It touches on homelessness among women, the loss of a child, and the commonality that all women have with one another regardless of our social conditions. The characters are brilliantly written, so real you will feel as though you know them personally and the humor within keeps the story from becoming too heavy despite the subject matter. You will laugh, cry and fall in love these women and their story. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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There were several books in this one.  Putting them all together in one didn't quite work for me, it seemed too manipulative.  Whose child is he?  Really?  Really?  Did you have to?  I was perfectly happy following Masha's life, her following of Sally Red Shoes and burgeoning friendship with Kitty.  That would have been a complete book there.  Whole.  But this second, incomplete, yet perfectly worthwhile book about Alice and Mattie, two characters we come to care about, gets smashed into it and is made to belong all along.  Rendering all the heartbreak and growth Masha went through somewhat irrelevant.  It quite spoiled it for me.
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Narrative and plot

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, is a story that shows the painful journey of how to let go of your grief. The narrative shifts between Masha - the protagonist, Alice and Mattie, though most of the book is about Masha and her grief. There are certain places where the narrative was slow and a little bit repetitive. Sometimes it makes you wonder if the things that are being mentioned are relevant at all or not. But the second half of the book wraps most of the loose ends nicely. Masha's narrative is fun and deeply intense at the same time.

This is more of a character-driven story rather than being a plot-driven story. The ending is a bit predictable but the point is, it's not about the "Happy Endings" - pun intended- it is about the journey of life and how you can make the best of what you have.

Characters and Conflict

The book has some colourful and eccentric characters. Yet, it feels like you can actually find some of them in real life. But, the book focused mostly on Masha. Well, she herself was a person with different layers and a sense of humour. It is easy to root for her and feel for her. However, there were other characters out there, of whom we only get a glimpse, towards the latter end of the book. You wish it had less imaginary stories about dead people and focused more on those amazing characters like Kitty Muriel and Sally herself.

The major conflict the story encountered was that of letting go of your grief after a loss and finding your reason to live again. The dead should be mourned none the less but it is certainly not the end of life for the living. That is basically the essence of the book and it is depicted in a beautiful manner . However, there is a major plot of the book that remains unexplored.


The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a great read if you're someone who has experienced the pain of loss at least once in life. It may not be everyone's cup of tea.

For all the things it explored and ventured into, it is exceptional. There is wit, humour, despair, pain, hope and happiness all in one story. You wish there was more to this. Perhaps it has a sequel, because the story still feels unfinished. Maybe the story intends to leave the rest to your imagination. However, a part of you wants to know more and lose yourself in the lives of these people. And that is definitely because it is a good read.
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George Michael was a member of a successful rock group Wham. When he decided to leave the group, he wrote a song titled Faith which he sang and watched it climb to #1 on the charts. The verse “I gotta have faith, faith, faith” showed that faith can pay off.
Ruth Hogan, author of The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, agrees with George Michael. You gotta have faith! Her novel shows us the meaning of faith and what can be accomplished with faith.
We meet Masha, a woman who has lost her young son in a drowning accident. Racked with feelings of guilt and despair, Masha is barely existing. When not spending time under water at the local pool, Masha walks the cemetery where she talks through her problems at the sides of graves. Thankfully, Haizum, her Irish Wolfhound provides companionship and is her lifeline.
At the cemetery, Masha meets Sally Red Shoes, a truly eccentric woman. Sally, a bag lady, sings arias in the cemetery and draws Masha into a new world. Along with equally unique Kitty Muriel, Sally offers Masha the chance to start living again. Just believe.
The novel also offers another woman’s story, one that will intersect with Masha’s life also.
Alice is a lonely single mother to a young teenage son Mattie. Facing a crisis of epic proportions, the overly protective Alice’s life begins to unravel. Mattie, struggles to handle his mother’s obsessing love and feels adrift with no support and life becomes hard to bear.
The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is an extraordinary book thanks to Hogans  ability to blend themes of grief and sorrow with joy. Her characters are diverse, unique, rich and vibrant in detail. Hogans experience with cancer seems to have given her a mesmerizing into the human spirit.
The colorful cover of the book signifies the beginning of a journey told with both bold and delicate brush strokes of insight into life. 
I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley. #NetGalley #TheWisdomofSallyRedShoes
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Ruth Hogan created a community of differing personalities, all living with some form of regrets,  The characters all have been frozen in their personal miseries with no hope of escape.  Enter a wonderful character who teaches them to put away their grief and live again.  The back stories of each character is smoothly defined.  Readers learn to love each one of them while still looking to see them resume life.  This book is very touching, leaving you feeling hopeful for the characters.
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