The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 May 2019

Member Reviews

‘Some people leave an indelible imprint on your life, like the indentation of a fossil in rock.’

I have thoroughly enjoyed all Ruth Hogan’s novels, so I had high expectations coming into, The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes. Once again she presents you with such an original tale, inclusive of all the quirkiness we have come to know and love. There is a beautiful balance within this novel that contains such overwhelming sadness yet also includes light and a hopeful outlook.

“I want to change my life. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it just yet. I don’t have a plan, just a feeling. A feeling that this, the way I’m living now, is not enough. Not any more. And only I can change it.”

Firstly, the despair and grief that consumes Masha is absolutely palpable. You can begin to imagine what it would be like to lose a child. I also love the relationship she has with her dog especially with her walks through an old Victorian cemetery, where she eventually encounters ‘Sally, Red Shoes’.  The stories Masha creates and love she provides to those dearly departed is heartwarming. The range of supporting characters are magnificent - once again, providing that balance of light and shade. They are vibrant and each have a part to play, especially Sally:

‘As I look up, I realise that Sally is studying my face intently. ‘You have lost your joy.’

What ties everything together in a Ruth Hogan novel is her writing style. There are some pretty hefty themes tackled here but through her quirky prose, you might find yourself welling up on one page and then having a huge smile come the next. Her writing, whilst for Masha is extremely introspective, is also insightful as she confronts the loss of loved ones. Filled to the brim with charm and wit, Ruth brings you through dark despair to rediscover life’s moments of pure joy. Bravo! There is a profound wisdom regaled in such a fashion that it is bound to touch your heart. 

‘... grief is not a linear thing. It reboots unexpectedly at a certain smell or sight or sound, and some days I still feel as though my world is like a patchwork quilt that’s coming unstitched.’

So fear not, Ruth will take you on a journey from the pits of despair to rays of light and hope. Such a talent to write like so and produce yet another beautiful story for her readers. To work through grief and find the will to keep living despite such tragedy and pain. This is an overall uplifting novel filled to the brim with reflective passages.

‘When the music ends for someone you love you don’t stop dancing. You dance for them as well.’




This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan was an interesting novel. I am rather conflicted about this one.  It took me a bit to follow the story at the beginning.  The story picked up its pace and it was interesting to say the least.  I really liked the main plot, the quirkiness of the characters, the dialogues, the wonderful sarcasm and the Britishness of the story.  The writing was very well done.  I must confess that I didn't like the novel's resolution. What happened at the end could have been an entire novel by itself. 
I would like to thank NetGalley, Ruth Hogan and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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To me this book shows that everyone is worthy of respect for their wisdom regardless their position in life..  Very wise and insightful and  great relationships.
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Oh, the curse of the second book! I absolutely adore the author's first book and therefore did not hesitate to request her second work without another thought, convinced that nothing could go wrong. But it did, and big time - at least for me. Too high expectations and all that, I guess...

The basic plot about a mourning mother and her way back into life was utterly intriguing, like watching sadness and hope performing a slow waltz, where one moment you face one of them while watching the other's back, and the next second they spin and it's just the other way round. But the whole time it's one elegant and smooth move without sharp angles or sudden turns. Once again, I relished in the author's beautiful writing, but...

This time I thought the story was drenched in flowery descriptions that would even make Anne Rice, the queen of frills, envious. I understand that clothes and decorating habits played a large part in defining the unique characters here, but I'm just no friend of having to peel of layer after layer of fancy cloth to reveal the interesting core hidden within. Even the surprisingly exciting ending could not make up for the circuitous and long-winded road I had to take to finally get there. It was all just too much, like a salad drenched in too much dressing that turns the leaves into a soggy and unrecognizable mush. In the end, I'm sorry to admit that this book fell very flat for me.

(Thanks to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for a copy of the book, all opinions are my own)
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When I first started reading this story I wasn't sure how it was going to go or how all the players would tie in. It was a little confusing at first and I almost put it down. It turns out this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. it deals with heartache, grief, and letting your life fall to the wayside. It is about making connections you did n't know you would ever need to move on in life. 
I loved this book so much I asked my library to order it so I could share this story with many other people.


** I received a copy of this book for an honest review**
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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes tackles tough subjects, including cancer, aging/dementia, and the death of a child. Focusing primarily on Masha, the story evolves as she figures out how to move forward after losing her son at a young age. Almost ten years have passed, and she is finally at a place where she wants to start living again. With the support of old and new friends, as well as family, she is able to celebrate life and all it offers, without feeling guilty about losing her son. Simultaneously, we meet Alice, who is a single mom and is struggling to raise her son while battling cancer. Though the two women don’t meet, we are led along a path that yields a satisfying conclusion. 

I found the beginning hard to wrap around - confusing passages and not quite understanding all that I needed to know; it read quite slowly and I couldn’t imagine why I still had 200 plus pages to go. However, about 1/4 - 1/3 of the way through, the storyline gels and is much easier to read and follow. This may have been an intentional facet to the writing, as Masha was despondent in the beginning of the story as well and Alice had not yet been diagnosed. The side characters are wonderful and make the story that much stronger. 

(I received an advance copy via Net Galley and have written an objective review)
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This is my 1000th — yes, one thousand — review on GR! Just saying...

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is mostly about grief. Masha lost her young son  over 10 years ago, and she’s coming to realize that her life is dominated by grief — and maybe it’s time to change. In parallel, single mother Alice is not well, and she and her son are slowly descending into disarray. The end was not much of a surprise to me, but that’s besides the point. The book is really about people in difficult situations and their emotions. Rogan does an excellent job of getting into Masha and Alice’s heads, and she surrounds Masha with really interesting characters, including Sally Red Shoes. This is the second book I’ve read by Rogan, and I really appreciate her sensibility. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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Enjoyed this book. Kept me interested all the way through. Would recommend to a fellow reader.  Love the cover.
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In this thoughtful novel, author Ruth Hogan (The Keeper of Lost Things) takes a deep dive into the emotions of grief and guilt from two voices. Masha lost her son over 12 years before, but she has never fully grieved or forgiven herself for what she perceives as her negligence. It isn’t until a dinner party with friends on the night of her son’s 14th birthday that she has an epiphany (at her friend Epiphany’s home, no less), realizing the negative impact her refusal to let go and live has had on her friends and family. “My grief has become an addiction; a bad habit like a tattered comfort blanket that I have hung on to for far too long.” It is the titular Sally Red Shoes, the crow-loving, opera-singing, elderly & muddled ragamuffin she meets on her frequent sojourns to the cemetery, whose words of wisdom help her find a way past her grief. Then there’s Alice, the over-protective mother who, when facing her own mortality, worries that her sins will be beyond forgiveness. However, she’ll make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that her son is protected if the worst comes to pass. 

Other characters, such as a Kitty Muriel Peachey, the “vintage sex siren” who sashays into Masha‘s life when she needs her most, sharing her own story of tragic loss, and Edward, her gay best friend and honorary father to her son who has grieved alongside her, show her that opening up to the possibility of love and joy is the way to honor the memory of their loved ones. Despite the heavy nature of grief, the humorous conversations and commentaries on life keep the story from being morbid and depressing. Unfortunately, the ending was very abrupt if not surprising. It’s unfortunate that readers, who are privy to Masha and Alice’s inner thoughts throughout the book, are deprived of them when curiosity all but demands it. Still a worthy purchase! 

I received a complimentary ARC of this book from Crooked Lane Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed are completely my own.
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THE WISDOM OF SALLY RED SHOES by Ruth Hogan gave me a lot to think about.  It covers so much ground on grief and living life to the fullest even if life hasn’t gone as planned.  I really liked the diversity of the characters.  The parts in the cemetery dragged a little too much for me so that’s why it wasn’t five stars but it was enjoyable and the last fourth was impossible to put down, even if you thought you knew where it was going.
I received an Advance Review Copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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This book wasn't the one for me. I had a hard time getting into the story, which eventually didn't even really happen. I also had a hard time understanding the story, especially in the beginning. I think the setting was described very elaborate which didn't feel necessary to me. About halfway through the book it got better, the pacing started to improve and I cherished the character development. Furthermore, I didn't really have a clue what Alice had to do with the story. It was confusing me and annoying me because it tore me apart from the "actual" story. About 75% through the book it became clear to me how they were related. Once I understood why some chapters were written from Alice's point of view it was less annoying to read them. Still, I don't think it was really necessary for the story at all. Overall, I enjoyed the story and the character development.
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I am not sure why, but this was just so very confusing for me. It took me way too long to actually differenciate the characters from each other as the point of view kept changing. So I never really got to know any of the characters that well, wish I had.

I don't think it was the right book for me. I haven't experienced that kind of loss and all of it just went over my head a bit. Also, it just seemed there was a little too much going on. I know it was supposed to make me feel hope, I guess? It definitely could do that for someone, just not me. But you can't adore all the books you read and how else will you know what you'll enjoy, right?
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I struggled to get thru this story as the style of writing by the author is not something I enjoyed. Unfortunately I gave up reading it about three quarters of the way in.
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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a thoughtful book that both surprised me and humbled me in ways that I wasn’t expecting.   Going into this book, I knew that the story revolved around difficult subject matter such as death, loss, and grief, and so I thought that this would be a heavy read, since most authors tend to approach these themes in a manner that focuses more on the dark and tragic.  It turns out I was wrong, as Ruth Hogan has a unique style all her own where she is able to take such difficult subject matter and approach it in a manner that is lighthearted, yet absolutely respectful.  Hogan herself was battling cancer as she wrote this book and as she describes in her “Author’s Note,” she chose to stand up and fight, facing her situation head on and not letting it get her down.  It is this personal experience that inspires the story, which revolves around the character of Masha, who is still dealing with the grief and guilt over losing her son Gabriel 12 years ago.  Masha is surrounded by friends and family who love her and want nothing more than to help her, but she can’t bear for the past tragedy to even be mentioned.  She finds solace in visiting the local cemetery, the only place where she is able to either keep silent company with the souls of the deceased or share her story with them as she feels comfortable.  She also takes refuge at the local town lido, where she finds safety in her “practice drowning” sessions underwater.  Slowly though, things start to change for her when she unexpectedly meets two women who open up a new world for her — a mysterious bag lady named Sally Red Shoes who loves to sing while feeding the crows that constantly surround her, and a seventy-something disco queen named Kitty Muriel whose vivacious joy and love for life belies a tragic past of her own.  Through these two extraordinary women and the various encounters she has with them, Masha’s outlook slowly changes and she sees the chance to start living again.  

This was a lovely, heartwarming story with quirky, eccentric characters that I absolutely adored.  Hogan writes in a descriptive prose that paints a detailed picture of each scene and in so doing, also brings each of the characters to life, though at times this also required a little bit of patience to read because the descriptions would sometimes go on for pages, making it easy to get so caught up in the details that I would forget what point I was at with the story — with that said though, the effort was definitely worth it.  I also loved the humor that was interspersed throughout the story, which I felt was perfectly balanced — no small feat given the sensitive subject matter, but done amazingly well in Hogan’s capable hands.  

Ultimately, this was a story that went beyond simply a meditation on grief and death — rather, this was a story about hope and resilience and finding the will to keep living in the face of tragedy and pain.  This was an uplifting and inspiring read, one that made me excited to read Hogan’s other works (both of which are already on my TBR).  Definitely recommended!

Received ARC from Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley.
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Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC of this book. 

Loved this book. Though the subject was death and loss and grief and moving on, it was a delight to read. It made me laugh.....and sometimes cry. The author's wit and her understanding of the human condition is amazing. Loved her characters. Such joy...even with the loss.
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I am one of the few people who didn’t LOVE Hogan’s first book. It was a nice enough story but it didn’t grab me so I was a little underwhelmed going into this one. But I am happy to say I ended up loving it!! 

This isn’t a book with a face-paced plot. But rather one to nurture and take your time with. The writing was beautiful and I especially loved the descriptive scenes in the graveyard. I really resonated with Marsha and my heart went out to her as she wrestled with her grief and eventually made the transformative decision to embrace joy again. There were a couple small things that kept this from being a solid 5 star read for me. The Alice chapters felt a bit creepy and I was actually disappointed with the ending. But I would highly recommend the book and am rating it 4.5 stars. 

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a chance to read this in exchange for an honest review.
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Great read. The author wrote a story that was interesting and moved at a pace that kept me engaged. The characters were easy to invest in.
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Laugh and cry with Sally Red Shoes

“The old woman fills her lungs with the crisp autumn air, throws open her arms and exhales a perfect top C. … The woman thrusts her hands into the pockets of her well-worn tweed coat, remembering with a smile a scarlet silk gown she wore in another life many years ago. Almost the same shade as the scuffed red shoes she is wearing now.”
This is how June Hogan begins “The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes.” This is Sally, a person many of the villagers look upon as insignificant, better left alone and ignored—but this is not how her friends see her. Yes, she sings opera in the local cemetery and feeds bread to the crows there and is definitely a bit out of touch with reality (with a tendency to profanity), but more important is the sage advice she dispenses to those who take the time to know her.
This is a book about grief, guilt, regret and loneliness. However, it’s more about love, friendship and the innate goodness of people. Do not think this is too depressing to read—you will finish this book having shed a few tears and laughed out loud, but also with a wonderful sense of hope and appreciation for friendships.
The two main characters are women who appear to have no connection. Masha, a counselor, is still grieving 12 years after her young son drowned. She spends time at the local pool, trying to understand what her son experienced and wandering with her dog, Hazium, through the village cemetery. She has brought to life the lives of those buried there, creating wonderful backstories for them, hoping she can soon give tours. She has a delightful habit of tossing in words of the day (with definition provided) as she visits all her “friends” at their gravesite—“He bounds off like a catawampus (word of the day—something very fierce) in pursuit of some fat pigeons.”

Then, there is Alice, the single mother of 13-year-old Mattie. Alice is so overprotective of her son that she can’t even bring herself to tell him she is battling cancer.
Trust me, the writing is brilliant, the grief and sadness are dealt with beautifully and balanced with wonderful humor. You will adore the supporting cast of characters as much as those I’ve mentioned. Hogan is a gifted author who has created a charming world that will make you cry, laugh and come out of feeling uplifted and optimistic.
Sandy Mahaffey is former Books editor at The Free Lance–Star.
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The Wisdom of Second Chances is an inspirational story about second chances in life. It left me feeling a range of emotions from laughing to crying.  It was a very satisfying read.
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I didn't like the style of the writing of this book. The story was okay, but I couldn't get into it because of the writing.
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