The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 May 2019

Member Reviews

Masha has been depressed for a long time, spending her time wallowing in grief and visiting the cemetery.  When she begins to turn her life around, as she meets some very quirky characters, hope becomes a part of her story.  At the same time, we meet Alice, a single overprotective mom, with her teenage son, Mattie.  It takes a while to get into both stories, but you will be rewarded if you stick with it.  I recommend this book for the love and hope it represents.
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I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes follows a woman named Masha, who is struggling with grief twelve years after her family was ripped apart. Her friends and family tiptoe around her, always afraid that they’ll say the wrong thing and make the pain worse. Fortunately, for Masha, she encounters two women who help her find a way to start living again. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a heartfelt story full of memorable and inspiring characters, that looks at death, grief, and learning how to live again.

What made me fall in love with this book was the characters. Masha is such a multi-dimensional character, and every chapter made me want to learn more about her. I loved reading about her and watching her slowly emerge from her shell of grief and learning to love again. I also loved that she was interested in the cemetery and that she created stories and lives for the people who were long forgotten. Masha’s eccentric group of friends also made the book incredibly enjoyable. I absolutely loved Kitty Muriel, and I hope that I have that much spunk when I’m her age. 

The other thing that I liked about this book is that there was a bit of a mystery in the background. Certain chapters were told from Alice’s perspective, but the book didn’t make it clear who Alice was until the very end. I was able to guess how she played into the story early on, but I liked that we didn’t find out exactly how she fit in until we got to know her better. I also liked how the reader didn’t find out the exact details of Masha’s tragedy until she was ready to take the steps required to start living again.

I also liked that this book deals with some very serious topics. It deals with death, with grief, with cancer, with guilt, and so many other things that people deal with every day. I felt that the way these topics were dealt with and portrayed were accurate and believable and that the author handled them delicately.  I also liked that despite all these heavy topics, the book was overwhelmingly positive and that it left me with a smile on my face.
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Ruth Hogan has somehow managed to write a novel about the unspeakable loss of a child and infused it with moments of joy and lightness amongst the more sombre themes of death dying.

Masha is a woman who lost her baby son Gabriel twelve years before and has since struggled to survive, feeling his loss every day. Her loyal wolfhound, Haizum, helps to keep her sane as does her dear friend Edward, who also loved her little boy, but she has forgotten to look for joy in her life and spends her free time practicing drowning and walking in the cemetery imagining the lives of the dead. Another frequenter of the cemetery is an eccentric woman she nicknames 'Sally Red Shoes' who collects bread crusts to feed the crows daily and loves to sing. Through Sally Masha also meets Kitty, an older woman full of life and willing to tackle anything and suddenly she finds she has new friends and perhaps more joy in living. Told in parallel with Masha's story is Alice's. Mother of thirteen year old Mattie, she is terrified of losing him after several miscarriages and in danger of suffocating him with her over-protectiveness. She's also terrified of leaving him as she undergoes treatment for cancer.

Despite the theme of death and grief, this novel never feels too weighty. Masha's love and joy in her little boy and her guilt and profound sense of loss is palpable but there are also moments of humour and lightness and it is lovely to watch Masha gradually throw off the grief that has cloaked her and feel part of the world again. Ruth Hogan's uses her wonderfully descriptive prose so sensitively to describe thoughts and feelings that all the characters come alive in full colour with all their quirks and foibles. I'm not entirely convinced that the ending was the best one for the characters, but it will make for an interesting discussion at book clubs.
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The author quotes Dolly Parton in reference to her story, saying “If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a story about grief and loss adeptly handled with care and a dose of humour. It has been several years since Masha lost her young son. While on the shore many years before, Masha fell and hit her head leaving her unconscious for a few moments before awaking to find that her son was gone, likely drowned in the sea. For several years after this Masha deals with her grief by holding herself underwater for as long as she can. She begins to spend time in the cemetery visiting the people who have died before. One day she meets Sally in the cemetery. Sally spends her time feeding the birds and singing. She wears red shoes and has a peculiar way about her. Soon Masha and Sally become friends and look out for one another. Sally comforts Masha and reminds her of the qualities of being alive. Masha decides that after a decade or so of learning to drown that she wishes to learn how to swim.

Hogan has written a rich and tender story. While parts of the story are sad they are interspersed with fresh combinations of lightheartedness, word-of-the-day vocabulary and full of redemptive qualities.

Thank you to @netgalley and @crookedlanebooks for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan is an endearing story of loss and grief, but also of rediscovering hope and joy.  This book is filled with wonderfully quirky, broken characters and Ms. Hogan exposes their layers throughout the telling of this story. Masha is a woman who has lost her son, Gabriel. No longer a mother, and not a wife, she worries that she’ll end up alone at the end of her life. Alice is a mom to teenaged, Mattie. But Alice harbors a secret that tie the two women together. This book is like a painting: there’s the objects we the reader see, Alice and Masha. Then there’s the environment they are in (Masha spends a lot of time in the cemetery and in the local pool; Alice remains isolated in her house outside the village). There’s the supporting characters: Marsha’s friends Edward, Epiphany, her dog Haizum, local undertaker Elvis, Kitty Muriel, and Sally with her red shoes; Alice only has Mattie. The painting referenced in the story is Ophelia by John Everett Millais, but unlike that Ophelia who lays singing before drowning in a river, Masha, the Ophelia in this story experiences a rebirth of sorts. The cemetery teaches her to embrace life, to be thankful for the days given to us, and as she befriends Sally, who feeds the crows in the cemetery, she also learns to not judge others for everyone has a story. Because of the relationships she has with those around her, Masha reopens herself to love, hope and joy. 

I really enjoyed this story and look forward to the next story by Ruth Hogan. I was given an advanced e-book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! #netgalley #thewisdomofsallyredshoes
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Unfortunately, this book is just competing with too many other releases right now for me to finish. I think the storyline is fine, but it had nothing super exciting that my attention was just not held. I am going to keep this on my list though, because it might be the perfect summer read.
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What is one person's grief, may not be another's. There is no time table, nor instructions about how we move on, and continue. For some, like Masha, they end up swimming in circles, not venturing farther than their 'safe spaces' where memories are constant and they don't have to face uncertainity. How Alice and Masha come to met may require the reader to have a box of tissues nearby, but through their shared experience, they find what they both need to understand and find new meaning in their lives. Maybe not a typical Summer book, but one that WILL be talked about!
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Ruth Hogan beautifully weaves together the story of three women; one who lost her son when he was two, one who is suffering from cancer and one who took what life handed her and sang her heart out. A lovely book about overcoming grief and learning to live again with some surprises thrown in. A great cast of eccentric characters including Elvis.
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So, it appears I am in the minority here, but I don’t think I have ever been more bored or depressed while reading a book. Here are my pros and cons:


- The cover is nice. The cover is what drew me to this book.
- I will give the author credit for creating a very specific atmosphere in the book – it was almost too real. Sadly since the topics are grief and loss, being so “real” made it also difficult to read (for me).
- I will also give the author credit for writing about some very heartbreaking topics with a great deal of humanity.


- I’m not heartless. I understand the story – the sadness and the grief that everyone is experiencing. But the sadness and the grief was just overwhelming and hard to take and honestly, for me it just wasn’t pleasant to read. It was too much. Even when Masha started to deal with her grief and come out of her shell a bit, it was too little too late for me.
- I really struggled to read this novel. I didn’t connect to the characters at all.
- The whole dinner scene at the beginning of the book was so far-fetched and weird for me that I’m afraid it affected how I perceived the remainder of the book.
- I wanted more about Sally. I didn’t get near enough Sally.
- The best part of the book was at the very end and it felt like it was an afterthought! Finally it was going somewhere – something was happening! And boom… end of book. ARGH!!

I understand that this book is supposed to be about finding your joy, and dancing in the rain, and connecting with others in spite of your circumstances or the tragedies you’ve experienced. It is about living in spite of grief and pain. I didn’t, however, get that from the book personally. To me it was just overly sad and depressing. I actually feel really bad about this but I’m sorry to say I couldn’t wait to finish it so I could move on to something else.

Thank you NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for a free electronic ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I found this book confusing to follow in the beginning chapters. There were too many characters interacting and I think the dialogue was too choppy so I had a hard time following it. The book didn't hold my interest. I made it to chapter 13 before putting the book down. It seemed interesting from the description, but I think it took too long to get off the ground.
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“The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes” deals in heartache, pain, grief and the process of, and deepest joy. It tackles death and grief on so many levels with raw and brutal honesty, also with sincerity and tact. This book is uniquely, very British. 

Masha, is a psychotherapist, obsessed with cemeteries and it’s inhabitants, both dead and alive. She makes up stories about the lives of the dead and keeps them company. She is also an avid swimmer and records the temp daily. She has also lost a son to drowning. 

Sally, is the resident crazy lady in the cemetery, that spews profanity, sings wholeheartedly, and feeds the crows! 

Alice is raising a young teenage son named Mattie. We meet her while she is seemingly disconnected from reality and society. 

The lives of the three are intermingled in peculiar ways. These characters will break your heart, leave you cheering for them, and cause you to think of them long after the last page. 

Trigger warning: bullying, animal cruelty, sensitive subject matter.

I was granted an advanced copy of this novel from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Thank you for the opportunity!
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While my reading experience turned out to be different than what I was expecting and it ended up being not exactly my cup of tea, I also understand the love for this story. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes is by no means a bad read (quite the contrary in fact) and the three star rating reflects my personal experience with the story rather than the quality itself. Every book has its target group and while the story sadly wasn't a right fit for me, I could also really appreciate it for what it was. Let's make it clear from the start that The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes has a considerably slow pace and is mainly a character-driven story. The power behind this read is Ruth Hogan's ability to create quirky, flawed and unique characters that will most likely stay with you for quite some time. A lot of time is invested in the description and development of the different characters. While I could really appreciate that and I do love my quirky and unique characters, for me personally it slowed down the pace too much and I struggled to connect and stay invested in the story. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes uses a dual POV and follows two 'broken' women each with their own past and problems. Sadly, I failed to connect fully to Alice and Masha, but what was even worse is that I guessed the mayor final plot twist right from the beginning. I kept hoping I was wrong... And it was quite a disappointment to discover I was right all along. I really liked Edward, Sally and Kitty though and I loved the hidden meaning behind Haizum's name (and the fact a dog plays a considerable role in the story). Masha's romance was too cliche for me, but I did enjoy seeing her character evolve over time and slowly learn how to deal with the death of her son. I'm having a feeling fans of slower and mostly character-driven contemporary dramas and those who love quirky and unique characters will have a wonderful time with The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes.
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Last year I had the pleasure to read The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. I was pleasantly surprised by the story and how much it affected me. So when I saw an opportunity to read The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, I couldn’t let that pass.
I must honestly say that I am a little disappointed by The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes and I find it quite hard to write a coherent review about it. Because it isn’t a bad book. If it would have been my first Ruth Hogan story I probably would have loved it more than I did now. The story is quite gripping and once again it was well written. Motherhood and losing a child are the central focus of this story and this was something that really hit home. Being a mother myself I really felt for Masha and the long road filled with grief she has already travelled. 
But… there are some major buts. In her afterword Ruth Hogan herself states that she is afraid she already used her best plot, most engaging characters en cleverest phrases in the first book. And I think this is my major issue with this book. That it is quite similar to The Keeper of Lost things. It follows exactly the same plot structure and what I found original in The Keeper, is just repeated here. In her first book small stories are centred around the lost objects. The same happens in this book, but now the small stories are centred around graves and the people buried in them. Although I really liked the stories, I couldn’t help but wonder “couldn’t you come up with something new? Something you haven’t done before?”
Apart from that the major plot twist was so very predictable. From the very beginning I knew how this story would play out. And honestly that wasn’t what bothered me at all. Because it would have made a fascinating storyline, but that storyline wasn’t explored at all. Plot twist, tiny epilogue, last page of the book. Such a shame, because I think the book would have benefited from exploring this story arc more. 
On the other hand I have to say that The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a much darker story then The Keeper of Lost Things. This is truly a sad book, covering extremely painful issues. But Ruth Hogan succeeds in injecting some humour in certain situations, without taking you out of the deeper emotions you are experiencing as a reader. This makes the book lighter, but still very meaningful.
I am really glad I read The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes and I am almost certain that I would have loved it to bits if I hadn’t read The Keeper already. 

Review will be posted on my blog on 10/06/2019
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Ruth Hogan can paint a picture like no other.   Her words color the page and create a detailed scene.   If I started quoting all the phrases I loved, I’d never be able to stop.  Her characters are vibrant.   She can have me alternating between crying and laughing in the space of a page.  

I adore books like this, that give us life with all quirks.  Masha lost her little boy 12 years ago and has just been surviving.  During a dinner party (hilarious and sad), she realizes it’s time to move on. It’s not an easy process.  This book reminds us it's wise to have a variety of friends, even some whose real name we don’t know and there’s something glorious about the different strengths they can impart. 

This book also called out to me because I’ve always had a thing for graveyards.  Like Masha, I find a connection there.  I love the concept of a “family on the other side“.  When Masha compares thoughts on death present day and historical, it rang very true.  

Hazium, a Wolfhound, provides comic relief and there was one scene where I almost fell off the couch from laughing.  

While the story dealt with death and loss, it gave me a real sense of peace and comfort.  I loved all the characters, their struggles and their valiant fights to keep living their lives.  

Make sure to read the Author’s Note.  Ms. Hogan states she wanted “a book about hope and living life to the full”, while still tackling some “difficult and painful issues”.   She succeeds with spades.  Five brilliant stars!

My thanks to netgalley and Crooked Books for an advance copy of this Heartwarming book.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I love reading a story that makes me want to be a part of it because the characters are so interesting & colorful. Watching Masha develop throughout the story is worth the read in itself but then you have Alice & Mattie's story along the way. I thought the author did a great job weaving a fascinating story & I highly recommend reading it.
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Unique writing style ✔️ ⁣
Eccentric characters ✔️ ⁣
A heartbreaking yet uplifting story ✔️ ⁣
Masha is drowning in her grief. 12 years ago her beloved son drowned. Masha can’t move past this enormous loss and the local cemetery becomes her sanctuary. She meets two women who will help her out of the muck and reclaim her life. This is a beautiful story of grief and how humans can overcome life’s hardships. A heartwarming story of friendship, human complexities, the impact we have on others, and what a beautiful gift life is. It took me awhile to get into this book, as the first third moves very slow. I’m glad I stuck with it because the rest of the book was lovely. This book is a bit darker than her other books but contains the quirky characters and unique writing style that Ruth Hogan is known for. For me, The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes was ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars. Thank you @crookedlanebooks for this advance reader in exchange for my honest review.
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At the heart of this novel is such a great, heartbreaking yet heartwarming story about a woman coming to terms with a tragic past and learning more about herself and capabilities through it all. The side plot adds quite a bit of mystery to the novel but is somewhat predictable. What really made this book hard for me was how slow it was for over the first half. I am familiar with Ruth Hogan and her work so expected it somewhat but for some reason, this book was almost painful to get through in the beginning, with overly descriptive narrative and not enough solid information about what was going on for the reader to really care about any of the characters. The last third of the book made up for it greatly, as her books tend to do, but the fact I was so willing to quit this one in the beginning really hurt my overall opinions of it. Sometimes I feel as though there are way too many layers in her books and that they cloud the reader's vision on the importance of what is actually going on in the heart of the novel and this is no different. I will continue being a fan of Ruth Hogan's because, at the end of her books, I always feel like I am satisfied by the endings and the basic story that was laid out but I just wish it wasn't so painful to find a rhythm.
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Masha and Alice are two different women with two different lives but have one thing in common…

"They say that just before you die your entire life flashes in front of you, but for me it is a single fragment. That instant when I woke up and he was gone."

Masha’s guilt from the tragedy of losing her son in a drowning incident has placed her in a state of penance by swimming underwater at the local lido and “playing chicken with death”. Her daily visits to the graves of her ‘Family on the Other Side’ in the local cemetery with her trusted Irish Wolfhound, Haizum, is her sanctuary away from the mournful eyes of strangers. When she meets “Sally Red Shoes”, an eccentric woman there who sings beautifully to the dead while feeding the crows, her life begins to change for the better.

"She would try to hide it from Mattie for as long as she could, but her past had finally caught up with her and now she would have to pay a catastrophic price."

Alice’s life has been secluded and secretive to protect her son she loves so much, but her secrets will have to be revealed once she receives tragic news. Will he forgive her?

The characterization is extremely well done giving the reader a look into desperate lives and healing hearts. Masha and Alice may have different lives, but they would do anything for their child. I enjoy the supporting characters of Edward, Masha’s best friend, and Kitty, Masha’s magnificent and confident new friend who can relate to her grief.

Hogan adds some great character quirks and originality to the story such as Masha’s unusual and comical relationship with her car named Edith Piaf, and her “words of the day” which are interesting and informative.

I love this book! Though it has some dark undertones, the story is about atonement, renewal, and discovery. It is about friendship and loneliness; life and death. Highly recommend.

Thank you to Ms. Hogan, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to review this book with no expectations of a positive review given.
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I loved this book - it took my totally by surprise and wasn't at all what I expected,
It does meander a bit, and the imaginary tales of The Dead can get a bit tedious, but its a beautiful story and blossoms like a flower. I would absolutely recommend,
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Excerpt from Review: "...Once I got past the first couple of chapters and realized the depth of emotion in what I was reading, I was hooked.  There is drama and a bit of mystery in this novel.  I enjoyed taking the journey with Masha as she unraveled the mystery behind Sally Red Shoes.  I also found Masha’s cemetery travels and musings to be quite humorous.  Even more enjoyable was trying to unravel what Masha and Alice had in common – there’s a surprise twist that I figured out halfway through, but many might not get it until the last chapters.

               The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is an incredible journey in which we learn how different people handle grief, but most importantly, the importance of dealing with grief and still being able to truly live your life without finding yourself just going through the motions.  An excellent read that I would recommend to anyone."
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