Cover Image: The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

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Member Reviews

This book began slowly and it takes awhile to get into the story, but the characters are quirky and interesting, the writing beautifully descriptive.  This is an excellent picture of grief and how it affects people.  

A sensitive and lovely book
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When I first started this one I wasn't sure whether I would end up liking it or not because it got off to a slow start for me and I found myself confused from time to time.  Once I did get more into the story I ended up enjoying it overall  mostly due to the quirky characters. It was definitely sad at times, with the grief that Masha was carrying around with her, but as the story unfolded I could slowly see glimpses of light coming back into Masha's life over time. It was quite beautiful to watch as she unexpectedly crossed paths with people who ultimately brought her up from her grief and helped her to live her life more fully again. I'm rounding up to 3.5 stars on this one.
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Good story with eccentric characters who deal with life’s tragedies. The character development is spot on and the story moves along at an easy pace. I received a copy from NetGalley and the publisher and this is my honest opinion.
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This is such an emotional novel without being so sappy and sad that you don't want to continue.  Beautifully written and deep.  I can't wait for more from Ruth Hogan.
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This book was beautiful - so sad and touching and uplifting and human. I really enjoy Hogan's writing. She makes me think of magical realism but I'm not sure her writing actually is, if that makes sense. It just feels that way.
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I was a bit nervous reading this book since I was such a fan of The Keeper of Lost Things. I had listened to Hogan's debut novel and found it charming and delightful. 

Maybe if I had listened to The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes I could have given a full 5 stars but I found parts of this book to drag. All the narrative about the different "residents" of the cemetery felt like overkill. I think the book would have been a perfect 5 stars with less of this narrative.

Masha was a character that I wanted to get to know and become my friend. I found it interesting how Hogan left different parts of the ending up to the reader's imagination. Hogan definitely has a unique writing style but once again I am a fan.
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Having read The Keeper of Lost Things, I was really looking forward to The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes. I expected it would be just as good and it was. What I wasn't expecting, even though I read the synopsis, was how very touching this story would be.

It deals with tough subject matter and there were quite a few times when I struggled with my emotions, but through it all, there was hope and there was also some humor.

There were lessons to be learned. Lessons about love, loss, suffering and friendships, among other things. Friendships are found in the most unlikely places sometimes and this book illustrates that well. I'm glad I read Ruth Hogan's book and I think you will be also. Give it a try.

Thanks to Netgalley, the author and publisher for an ARC at my request. My thoughts in this review are my own and freely given.
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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes charmed the pants off of me.

Ruth Hogan’s writing is beautifully descriptive, making the settings come to life. She builds the story slowly, allowing us to know two of the main characters, via their parallel points of view. Masha is a grieving mother, unable to move on with her life, even though it’s been twelve years since her son died. Alice is a single mother to Michael, now a changing teenager. He’s the apple of her eyes.  

Masha is fascinated with the Victorian graveyard in her neighbourhood, where she spends countless hours, either by herself or in the company of her adorable wolfhound, Haizum. Besides her job as a psychologist, she enjoys swimming in an outdoor pool, no matter how cold it gets.

As they say, the devil is in the details. This is the case here as well. The settings and their descriptions are beautiful. There’s a large cast of quirky and interesting characters. I enjoyed the “word of the day” that popped up now and then and, incredibly enough, learning about the Victorian era ‘death business’, including a few other bits and pieces.

Although there’s death, pain and grief, The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes ends up being a feel-good, life-affirming kind of novel, which I savoured and found satisfying.

Highly recommended
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4 or 4.5 stars. This is the story of Masha, who lost her little boy and has been just barely surviving ever since, and how she copes with her grief and tries to move beyond it. It's also the story of how important it is to have wonderful friends to stand by you when life hurts. It's also about being open to learning what you can from everyone you encounter in this life, even if they might be a bit eccentric--like the bag lady Masha calls "Sally Red Shoes". Mostly, I loved the characters in this book and I wish my pool of wonderful friends included Masha's friends! I rounded down on this because I didn't like how the book began: slow moving and kind of obscure. Other than that, though, it was very good.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a free e-ARC of this book for review.
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A story of loss and grief, The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes tackles the dark topic of tragedy and death. It was such a beautiful story full of wit and charm. As a mother, I can’t imagine losing a child, so it felt very raw for me, but it was a good perspective to see how Masha was handling her grief. 

I enjoyed this story more than I even imagined! It’s not easy to take such a difficult storyline and told  in such a beautiful way.

I lost my father a year ago, and the grief still comes in waves, but I think this book can help those who also have lost someone empathize and heal.
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If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. 

I'm torn. 

While I loved the quirky characters, the witty dialogue, the cheeky British humor, and the potential this story had...it felt unfinished. It wasn't a novel which had me running to get back to it once I'd put it down, particularly the first 30%...it was confusing and, quite franking, boring. I felt the author, Ruth Hogan, just skimmed the surface of some very emotional, life-altering story lines.

There was so much pointless filler. As a side note, however, having a giant breed dog myself (a St. Bernard), I could relate wholeheartedly to the Haizem (the protagonist's Irish Wolfhound) stories. 

While the book was named after Sally, she seemed more an afterthought...making only brief, not even memorable appearances. Worse, I felt I had slogged through nearly 300 pages, waiting for a resolution, only to have a conclusion/epilogue that completely punked out, and left everything open to interpretation. Sometimes that works, this time it didn't. 

Final thoughts: I can see why this book appeals to so many--the idea is lovely. Unfortunately, it never reaches it's potential, and leaves the reader turning page after page of tedious filler. 2.5 stars

**Thanks to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books, and Ruth Hogan for the free ARC, in exchange for my honest review.
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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is the second novel by British author, Ruth Hogan. Masha knows she’s probably seen as a bit eccentric: she and her wolfhound, Haizum are frequent visitors to the cemetery, where she talks to the dead; she tries to use her word-of-the-day in conversation (spoken or thought); her dress and grooming aren’t always up to scratch; but probably the weirdest thing is swimming to the deep end of the Lido Swimming Pool and sitting underwater holding her breath. 

None of that quite puts her in the category of the woman she thinks of as Sally Red Shoes, whose flamboyant manner of dress is outdone only by her devoted following of expectant crows (awaiting the bag of breadcrusts she invariably produces), not to mention her habit of operatically serenading the cemetery at full volume. Sally’s speech, Masha and other regulars know, gets scrambled, so the expletives uttered with perfect diction ought not be taken at face value. Masha can’t help liking her, and feeling protective when local teens behave thuggishly.

For Masha, the pool is her penance and the cemetery, her pleasure. She doesn’t allow herself much of the latter, still weighed down, twelve years after a tragic loss, with guilt. Her family and friends take care to avoid mention of that awful event, but Masha has come to a realisation that the loss is not hers alone, and perhaps the tiptoeing around the subject needs to stop. Perhaps, instead of just surviving, she can begin to live again. And as she is noticing a handsome, able-bodied swimmer (she thinks of him as the Olympian) at the Lido, perhaps it already has.

Meanwhile, young single mother, Alice is besieged by anxiety about the safety of her teenaged son, Mattie, whenever he is out of her sight.  At thirteen, Mattie believes he deserves more freedom. However, to Alice, Mattie is so precious, the only one of her babies that survived. But if she is being honest with herself (and soon she may have to be, for Mattie’s sake), she will have to admit the truth about her beloved son.

Hogan’s characters are her strength and her description of them, and of life’s little events, make this novel an absolute pleasure to read. Certainly Sally and Masha are not the only quirky ones in the cast: most of Masha’s family and friends have some idiosyncrasy that endears them to the reader whilst providing humour, entertainment or a talking point. While the mystery is slowly revealed, most readers will have guessed the basics, if not the details, early on. 

Hogan’s own experience with cancer, as well as working in local government, rescue dogs and reading gravestones are apparent in her fiction. Her second novel is heart-warming and uplifting, and the comparison with Eleanor Oliphant is indeed a valid one. Hogan gives her characters many wise words: Sally tells Masha “When the music ends for someone you love you don’t stop dancing. You dance for them as well.”  However, readers might be wishing for just a bit more resolution in the final pages. A very enjoyable read.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books.
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Masha  lost her son Gabriel when he was just a small boy, and she hasn't stopped living in her self-made purgatory since.  She allows herself very little joy, spending the days either at her job as a psychiatrist or wandering about the cemetery visiting the different graves and making up stories about the lives of those occupants.  Alice is a single mom to Mattie, who is emerging on his teenage years.  Alice's entire world revolves around Mattie and in fact she has no life except as his mom.  This book tells the alternating story of these 2 women and their unlikely connection.
This book was a delight from start to finish.  The characters were all colorful and charming, and made me wish I could be counted as one of their friends.  I highly recommend this enchanting tale!
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I went into reading this book only knowing the summary and that was about it. I wanted so much to love this book. Sadly that didn't happen. I had to force myself to read this. It didn't make much sense in the beginning and the writing just wasn't there.
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Read this book!  This one took me by surprise- I thought it might be a standard story of a woman pulled out of grief by well, the wisdom of another woman, but it's not.  It's much much deeper and, actually, quite illuminating on the subject of death ritual.  Masha lost her son Gabriel at the river when he was just two and since then she's been in a state of suspended animation with her only outlet attempting to feel what it feels like when you drown.  She stays alive for the sake of her dog Haizum (named for the angel Gabriel's steed) and with the help of her friend Edward.  And then with the light of Kitty Muriel.  Sally Red Shoes is also much more than the crazy lady who feeds crows in the cemetery.  Their interactions are marvelous.  THere's a parallel story of Alice and her son Mattie which will eventually merge and while you might think you know the answer, there's more to that one as well.  This is beautifully written with just terrific characters,  not only in Masha but also her parents (love her mom) and Rita and the rest.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. This is one I'm going to recommend.
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This is a very, very sad book with a very cheerful sounding title and cover.

Childhood cancer and grief are the two main topics so readers should be forewarned.

While there are some lighter moments - it was a rather hard read for me.

Still - it was beautifully written. thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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Overall I enjoyed this unique and quirky story about loss and grief. Masha has been grieving the loss of her son for 12 years. Her journey from the depths of her grief to her realization that she must move and her live her life was beautiful and emotional. There are so many heartfelt and funny moments. Her relationship with Edward was one of my favorite parts of the book. They are both funny and sarcastic and I love their eccentric group of friends. Sally and Kitty are lovely characters and were another favorite part of the book. As I got to know Masha and understand more about her son's death I found myself enjoying the book much more. The first half of the book and Alice's storyline was too vague and confusing for me. Most of the time I had no idea what was going on with her. I was too confused and knew too little about her to be invested in her story. I found myself wanting her chapters to be longer just so I could understand her and her connection to Masha. It eventually all came together,  but I didn't enjoy how long I had to wait and wonder before understanding it all. Masha, Edward, Kitty, and Sally were wonderful and funny enough to keep me reading until the end.
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A special thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Masha is drowning, figuratively speaking that is. Once a spirited and vibrant woman, she has been eclipsed by grief. Seeking solace in the silence, Masha frequents the local Victorian cemetery and the town pool where she punishes herself for her son's death in the freezing water.

But as she meets a cast of eccentrics—including Sally Red Shoes, a 70-something opera singer and the beautiful and wise Kitty Muriel—she begins to live again. The women change Masha's course by opening up a new world of possibilities. That is until the past comes back with a vengeance.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a poignant novel about death, resilience, and finding joy in the smallest things. 

I had the sincerest pleasure of reviewing The Keeper of Lost Things and loved it! Hogan's a gifted author who writes with emotion and flair. In this story, Hogan draws on her own experience with cancer and treatment. She also explores friendship—between different generations and backgrounds—and the theme of drowning. In this novel, swimming serves a psychological purpose in that Masha uses it as a way to serve her penance. She swims underwater to the steps, holds the handrail and stays under until her lungs implode and she drowns...almost.

Masha is a character that lives a life of self-imposed emotional isolation. Her grief and the guilt over her son's death have become her dark companions, an addiction of sorts. There are some beautiful passages in the cemetery where she creates stories for those that are resting there. Gradually Masha surfaces both literally in the pool, and figuratively from her grief. It is then that her swimming becomes a joy rather than a punishment.

Thank you, Ruth Hogan, for this book. It is an incredibly moving story of grief, and of the resilience and beauty of the human spirit.
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This book was just not for me - I read 50% of it and just was bored, didn't care about the characters or the story or anything I was reading. I had been really looking forward to this book and was just unable to finish it. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes follows the lives of Masha and Alice. Masha is struggling with the grief of losing her son Gabriel. Masha deals with her pain by going to her local pool every morning and almost drowning herself, the way her son Gabriel did. She finds comfort by going to a local cemetery and talking to the gravestones. On her trips to the cemetery she encounters Sally, an eccentric old woman who feeds the crows and sings to the dead. They start to form a friendship each time they run into each other at the Cemetery. Soon, with Sally's advice she starts to turn into her old self again and making new friends. 
Alice is a loving mother to Mattie who is now turning into a teenager. She is struggling with her own issues of learning to let go of her own past and the future of her health. 
Ruth Hogan's writing is so unique. She perfectly conveys emotions and descriptions that will captivate you. The way she writes Masha's journey of losing a child and dealing with grief is so heart wrenching yet she still manages to add in light and fun of the memories of Gabriel being alive. Ruth also did a fantastic job of showing Alice's journey through cancer and her son Mattie watching his mother fade away. This book managed to make me laugh and cry at the same time! I loved how absolutely ridiculous Sally was yet so sane and wise at the same time. This was almost a five star read for me but the slow start dragged on a little bit longer than I would have hoped. It wasn't until chapter 7 that I really got invested in the book! But the ending is absolutely everything! 
Thank you NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the ARC!
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