Cover Image: The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

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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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"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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