Cover Image: The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

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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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"The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes" was a heartfelt, compelling novel centered upon the very difficult subject of death, especially that of a child. Masha is a grieving mother who, through chance encounters with new, eccentric friends, finally forgives herself and allows herself to heal after the death of her son. The story of Alice, a devoted mother of a teenage son who is battling her own demons, is told concurrently. 

I would love to give this story more stars, I enjoyed the characters and the uplifting quotes that I noted throughout the novel, but there was just something missing. Hogan went into great detail to describe Masha's "family on the other side," but failed to truly develop the main characters and draw the reader into the story. At times I was just skimming through innocuous paragraphs that were irrelevant to the plot, but I was committed to read to the end due to her hook. I finally became invested in the end of the novel, but by that point it was over.
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I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It’s really tough to write a review for this book. It took me a long time to read it, which is a rarity for me. I even had to stop it to read another book because book club was meeting. In fact, I thought about not coming back to finish it, which is also rare for me, if I start it, I tend to finish it. However, I only had a few hours left of reading so decided to push through it. I do have to say that I liked the way the book ended, but it just took a long, somewhat boring time, to get there. When I finished the book, I actually thought about it several times, which is a good thing, but it also just wasn’t a book that grabbed my attention. Therefore it’s a 3.5 stars for me.
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This book is a screamer -- as in I want to scream READ THIS BOOK from the housetop.  Hogan has followed her brilliant, achingly gorgeous debut with an incredible novel that follows the intertwined lives of wonderfully crafted characters who muddle and dance and shuffle their ways through the world. As very few writers do, Hogan weaves a powerful story with even more powerful imagery and memorable, poetic scenes I will never forget, including a dinner party I would give a great deal to have attended.  Wonderful, masterful, brilliant -- there aren't enough words to laud this gorgeous story.
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First a disclaimer: I'm a sucker for second chance tales. But even by that standard, Hogan's book is unusually refreshing. It takes a long time to flesh out Masha. The slowness didn't bother me because I was so often focused on Hogan's strong wordsmithing. She can be lyrical (in an economic way) one minute and drop-dead snarky the next. (Both Masha and Hogan have a lovely gallows humor.) The slowness of the first third of the book is perfectly in keeping with Masha's stage of development. Still thrall to grief, she's closed off from her nearest and dearest. So why would she open herself to us readers with any speed, either? The pace picks up as Masha struggles out of the prison of her own making and interacts with more and more of the quirky characters in her life, not least of all Sally the loony feeder of crows. I don't see Sally as the catalyst for Masha's recovery, any more than any of other friends were. But Sally feeds the Leitmotif of grief. Grief over a lost loved one is what landed Sally in her dysfunctional state. This is where Masha is headed, unless....  

The parallel tale of two other characters spins out separately from Masha's story. Halfway through the novel it's easy to guess how the two sets of characters will intersect. That's not a criticism. This is a literary novel, not a mystery.

The miraculous insertion of that second group of characters into the chief protagonist's life rounds the circle of Masha's evolution, but is not the reason for it. What I most liked about the book is that Masha did the hard work all by herself -- yeah, with a little help from her friends, but she had to struggle to see the lifelines around her and finally grab onto them. She.had to start swimming in that pool and stop her ghoulish drowning experiments in it. In fact, had the miracle arrived too early, one wonders if the closed-off Masha would have been receptive or known what to do with it. Which is pretty much the way life goes: We make our own luck; we drown in our own grief, in our own mistakes. A fascinating read.

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I had mixed feelings about The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes. The story hits on some dark themes, and I loved the quirky characters, but I struggled with this one for most of the book. The pacing is a little slower than I prefer and the beginning felt muddled, at least until I got further into the book and figured things out. I suppose that could have been intentional, or it could've just been me. Either way, it didn't work for me. From what I've seen, I'm certainly in the minority as this one has received some pretty high ratings, but it is what it is. I just found this book too easy to set aside for something I could immerse myself in and more difficult to pick back up than it should've been.
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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan
Source: NetGalley and Two Roads
Rating: 5/5 stars


The Bottom Line: I spent roughly the first 30% of this book having no idea where it was going and not caring one bit!!  From the moment this book opens you are drawn into Masha’s story, her pain, and her struggle to move beyond the loss of her beloved son.  That movement is aided significantly by Masha’s own realization about the effect her grief is having on her family and friends, a conscious decision to make changes and move forward, and the friendships she develops with Kitty Muriel and Sally Red Shoes.  As the friendships develop, Masha learns to see life as a thing worth living and not a thing to regret and feel guilty over.  In fact, as Masha draws closer to both Sally and Kitty Muriel, she finds deep wisdom and valuable life lessons can be learned from the older woman, lessons that help push Masha beyond her grief and toward a better and happier life.  

Beyond the friendships, which are utterly fascinating, I also very much enjoyed Masha’s trips to the cemetery.  While this may sound decidedly morbid, Masha’s trips are actually full of imagination and joy.  Though she is dealing with her own loss and pain, Masha has turned the cemetery into a place that celebrates life and imagines, quite literally, the lives of the people who now occupy many of the graves.  To deal with her own issues, Masha has created a rich and wonderful world populated by the dead or, as Masha calls them, her family on the other side.  I quite enjoyed these trips to the cemetery as much as Masha’s beast of a dog 😊  

In truth, I absolutely requested this book based on the title alone!  How do you refuse and/or ignore a title like The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes?  What I got was a wonderful story, a deep and rich world populated by wonderfully unique characters and a twist that left me reeling.  This one is an absolute top recommendation!
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The writing is beautiful. The characterization is spot on. The story intriguing. But it was so depressing that even a light at the end of the tunnel didn't lift the gray skies. If you like sad, heartwarming books, than this is definitely a good book and I did like it but I just couldn't get past the gloom.
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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a beautifully written study of grief, and how people cope with unbearable loss. There was charm and interesting fully developed characters I just found it too heart wrenching for me. I know that had I been in a different frame of mind I might have really loved it, but at this time I struggled. Thank you to Crooked Lane and NetGalley for allowing me to read this ARC.
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Thank you to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Just to put it out there: I loved this book. The author explores themes of grief, death, loss, illness - and the wonderful quality of friendship, which can help bear all these things. After finishing the book, I discovered that the author herself was grievously ill at the time of writing, which certainly could explain how well and with what depth of feeling she tackled these difficult issues in writing this book. The luminous prose is a joy to read, and despite the heaviness of the underlying themes, there is love and humor in the telling of this story. I was quickly drawn in and cared deeply about the people in the book. 

Now off to find the author's first book and read it ASAP!  I highly recommend this book.
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I requested the ARC for The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes because of its publisher - Crooked Lane Books. I LOVED Little Darlings by Melanie Golding, which was also published by CLB, plus the cover for Sally Red Shoes is just FANTASTIC, so I was pumped to be approved for an advance copy. I thought The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes would just be a straight up Women's Fiction with some great characters, emotion, a great message, but it ended up being so much more than that. 

Who would have thought a bag-lady who frequents the local cemetery to feed the crows and sing to the birds would end up giving someone the exact advice they needed to stop surviving and start living? The main character of The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is Masha, who gave this mysterious bag-lady the name "Sally Red Shoes".

• Masha: finds relief in almost drowning herself regularly to keep "inner demons" away (guilt from her son's death). Her son, Gabriel, died twelve years ago. She enjoys walking through the cemetery, visiting the graves of strangers. She likes to dive into their lives, find their stories, and shares them with the reader. She wants to find a way to not just survive, but to live.
• Thankfully, Masha has great friends and meets a few new ones who give her what she needs to heal her heart. Her dog, Haizum, plays a pretty big part in the story. Edward was basically like a father to her son Gabriel. "Sally Red Shoes" gets Masha's brain turning and Kitty Muriel is a new acquaintance who's there to put those big, new thoughts into action. Kitty seems like a simple, attractive, happy person who you secretly judge, thinking she's happy because she hasn't had tragedy in her life, but you come to find you are very, very wrong about her. She actively chooses life even though she's experienced tremendous loss. 

• Along with Masha's story, we also learn about Alice, a single mom, with a son named Mattie. She's also had a lot of loss in her life, which has made her become an overprotective mother to her teen son, and he's secretly resenting her for it.

› Likes 😻
• Kitty Muriel stole the show for me. I'd love to read an entire novel about her life before she met Masha.
• Twist at the end that I knew was coming from the beginning but still left me with my jaw hanging. It was so much more than what I thought it was going to be.
• Love the message that we have the power to choose happiness.
• Felt lots of emotion throughout this story. I laughed, I cried.
• There are so many great conversations to have about this book. It would make a great Book Club selection! 

› Dislikes 😾
• transvestite is referred to as "ladyboy" :/
• a joke about people being drugged without their consent
• Didn't find out Masha is a psychotherapist until page 79?
• What are "ethnic earrings"?
• "She looks like a demented rag doll" (woman insulting another woman)
• I didn't like the way Masha talked about her clients, mocking them, hiding smiles.
• Masha claims to be "in control" when confronting a group of teens and using the F word. How in the world is that "in control"?

› The Ending blew me away. Wow, wow, wow.

› Final Thoughts
• The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a moving novel about loss, grief, healing, hope, learning how to live life to the fullest, having the wisdom to know when to ask for help and the courage to let people in. 

› Trigger Warnings
• death, missing child, dead child, miscarriage, grief, depression, drowning, abandonment, illness (cancer)

Thank you to Netgalley and publisher for the complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.
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A heartbreaking look at grief. This isn't an easy, light read but it's a profoundly moving one. 

Many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for my ARC. All opinions are my own.
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Oh lord, this book! It is absolutely lovely but you will need half a box of tissues at least. The story is split into two perspectives. Two women with juxtaposing lives. One starts out happy and the other begins sad, but that soon changes for the both of them. This book is exactly what I needed when I read it. It's about grief, living life, and taking your life back after a huge loss. But before I give everything away, let's get to the review!

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Masha is drowning. Once a spirited, independent woman with a rebellious streak, her life has been forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago. Unable to let go of her grief, she finds solace in the silent company of the souls of her local Victorian cemetery and at the town's lido, where she seeks refuge underwater - safe from the noise and the pain. 

But a chance encounter with two extraordinary women - the fabulous and wise Kitty Muriel, a convent girl-turned-magician's wife-turned-seventy-something-roller-disco-fanatic, and the mysterious Sally Red Shoes, a bag lady with a prodigious voice - opens up a new world of possibilities, and the chance to start living again.

Until the fateful day when the past comes roaring back...

Masha is depressed and grieving. She lost her son years ago, but she still has not been able to get past her grief and really live her life. She goes to work as a therapist (she appreciates the irony of this), swims/tests how long she can stay under water, and goes home and dwells on the past. It affects her relationships and has taken over most of her life.

But that all changes when she meets a woman in the cemetery. Masha walks through the cemetery often, visiting the graves that rarely get any visitors, and she talks to them. It gives her a little bit of solace and she just likes doing it. But she isn't the only one in the cemetery. An older woman in red shoes who feeds the crows is there as well. Masha names her Sally. She seems to go in and out of lucid thoughts, occasionally swearing at Masha when she means to be welcoming. But Masha doesn't mind. She's not perfect either.

They soon develop a strong friendship and the woman teaches Masha how to live past her grief.

It is so utterly beautiful. Masha slowly begins to come back to herself and realize how she'd been wasting her time by dwelling on the past. She begins to meet her friends again, gains new ones, and even meets a swimmer dude!

But this isn't just her story. There is also Alice. She begins the story as the perfect mother. Making tea for her son, Mattie, when he comes home from school and going to his sport matches. Everything is perfect in her life. All she needs is her and her son. But Alice's life is not at all what it seems. She has a dark secret and with time quickly passing her by, she realizes she needs to tell it sooner rather than later.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a brilliantly written and inspiring book. It made me think about what I'm doing each day and what changes I can make to make it better and more fulfilling. Who needs self-help books when you have fiction?! I connected a lot with Masha but by the end, I felt for Alice as well. She did something horrible during her life, bur she tries to make amends for it in the end.

Needless to say, I cried through the whole book lol. I am giving The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes 5 out of 5 stars. I also really enjoyed learning who Sally actually is and how she lived her life before becoming the woman who feeds the birds. If you're looking for a bit of hope along with a good bit of angst, please give this book a try!

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes came out on May 3, 2018 but is being re-released on June 11, 2019.

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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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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