Cover Image: The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

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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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I received a free e-copy of The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan from NetGalley for my honest review.

This is the story of Masha and Alice. Masha lives in a world of never ending grief and guilt after the drowning of her son, Gabriel. From the day Gabriel died, Masha stopped living life and started an endless obsession with death. While trying to heal and being on a road to recovery, Masha meets some wonderful characters, all of whom play a part in helping her to learn to live life again.

The close group of characters and the people they meet along the way build a close relationship and begin to feel the weaknesses that are shared by the experience of losing a loved one.

Sally Red shoes, a character named by Masha because of her beautiful red dancing shoes. Then there is Alice, a single mum with a teenage son, who suddenly has to deal with the horrors of cancer.

A beautiful, enriching, sad and emotional read filled with beautiful, heartfelt and detailed characters.
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I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.   Thank you NetGalley & author.

This is an inspirational story about bouncing back.. finding a reason to live.. and finding inspiration in the places you least expected...            I adored this book
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This was a very sad, quiet novel that is very well written. It has a lot of moments about grief that were so well explained, I was almost crying. Masha is a wonderful character - both witty and funny but also sad and wounded. Her journey to try to come out of her blanket of grief was very moving. 

Alice is another POV that pops up through-out the story and a POV I didn't like as much. She was more preachy and god-fearing. I found her storyline a distraction from Sally Red Shoes and Masha and the journey of the dogs and the friends and the swimming. I was disappointed, in the end, when it was all wrapped up so neatly. I didn't mind the frayed ends and the messiness that is....life. I wish I'd liked it more.
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Ruth Hogan is a master of the up lit genre. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes Hogan is wonderfully enchanting story of love and loss. The cast of characters are well developed, eccentric and utterly lovable. This book made make me laugh, cry, and rejoice in the friendships and humanity.
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This was unlike any writing style I've experienced in recent memory. The plot unfolds in parallel story lines, one told in the first person and one in third-person with multiple POVs. As it moves forward, we are allowed deep into the psyche of our lead characters, looking back on the events that brought each towards a life-changing decision. I was drawn into their lives and cheered for the positive changes. The ending was satisfying but oblique.
I voluntarily read an advanced review copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley and I offer my honest opinion in response.
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An excellent read. 
With vivid writing, The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a book that can be enjoyed no matter how many times the reader reads it. The evolution of its characters, the handling of emotions, the entire journey the reader goes through is every bit enjoyable.
The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is to be savoured slowly. Definitely recommend!
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