Cover Image: The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

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Member Reviews

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:

Pros

- 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.

Cons

- 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!!

Summary
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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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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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a story of transformation as well as atonement.  Masha lost her young son 12 years ago and has never fully recovered. Grief has paralyzed her and she holds on to it as a way to assuage the guilt she feels for Gabriel losing his life. While Masha is alive and fully functional, she is merely going through the motions of living. She takes her dog Hazium for walks in the cemetery where she converses with the dead.  Masha aspires to be a cemetery guide and she makes up stories about the individuals buried there. There’s a trio of women she calls her “worry dolls” and she tells them all her troubles. In fact, throughout the story, Masha introduces us to individual characters she affectionately calls her “family on the other side.” 

If it isn’t clear yet, Masha is obsessed with death — she tries to feel what drowning is like when she goes swimming, she has a collection of books about death and dying, she contemplates sudden death, etc. Yet I did not find this book to be maudlin or morose and I attribute that to the writing skills of Ruth Hogan. Furthermore, I found Masha to be a likable character and the reader cannot help but feel sorry for her.  She knows she has to change but it isn’t until she meets Sally Red Shoes in the cemetery, who gives her valuable advice and dances with her, that she feels she can. Her new friend Kitty also plays a significant role in her transformation when she tells Masha about her own past tragedy and how she coped with it and successfully moved on with her life.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is a touching story that will break your heart and then heal it. I had trouble getting into it and becoming engaged with the story but patience paid off and I am glad I stuck with it. 

Thank you to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advance reader copy in exchange for my honest review.
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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crooked Lane through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.  

All people are not as they seem.  That sums up this storyline.  Sally Red Shoes is a homeless woman with many words of wisdom and talent of singing and dancing.  I really enjoyed Sally’s character albeit a seemingly minor one.  She provides guidance and wisdom to coping with death.  The cemetery is where Sally and Masha, the protagonist, share stories.  

Masha’s little boy, Gabriel, died by drowning 12+ years ago and a good substance of the book is her mourning and recovery.  Alice, a single mother, battles cancer and she worries who will care for her son, Matthew, if she doesn’t survive.  Masha frequents the local cemetery and “visits” with its residents (very good “listeners”).  Lots of symbolism – red, birds, death…  “Where there are birds, there are angels.”  The reader learns about Gabriel’s death as well as many other deaths.  

The book starts very dark and somber.  Death and dying are constant throughout the book in every aspect – cemetery, grief (“grief has become an addiction”), coping, guilt, (“guilty for still being alive”), drowning, deathbed (“no place for slackers”), ghosts.  Intertwined within is humor -- finding humor in death.  I found myself laughing out loud which lightened the book tremendously.  

Per Sally, “You can’t keep angels in your pocket.  You have to let them fly.”  I can’t say reading about death is enjoyable but the author interjects humor along the way to make it readable.
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Ruth Hogan narrates the story of two mothers, Masha, who has lost a child, and Alice, who faces the possibility of leaving her child alone in the world when she is diagnosed with cancer.

I quite liked the author's writing style, although I do not love reading long descriptions and the graveyard that Masha visited was often described in great detail. The colorful cast of characters really made the book come alive and become lighter, which was necessary at times, as grief was undoubtedly the book's main topic.

My only complaint is that one can tell very early on how the book is going to end. The secret connection between the two main narrators is pretty obvious, so the small twist at the end does not really surprise the reader. 

Personally, I only kept reading because Ruth Hogan has a way with words, which is why I ultimately enjoyed this book.
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This was my first experience reading a book by Ruth Hogan, and upon finishing The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, I immediately added her other books to my must-read list.  To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want this book to end.  I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these fabulous characters that I had grown to care about.  It had me experiencing a whirlwind of emotions and had me completely captivated from start to finish.

This book deals with some difficult, emotional subject matter.  While it did weigh heavily on my heart at times, this author has a flair and unique quality to her writing that not only handles the topic with the grace and dignity that it deserves, but she also infuses plenty of wit, quirkiness, and a healthy dose of heart into it as well.  When my husband asked me if I was enjoying the book, I told him that I was laughing on one page and wiping my tears away a few pages later.  That’s not an exaggeration.  I’m just glad that I read it in the comfort of my own home.

The story centers primarily around Masha, her grief, and her journey to healing, but it also follows Alice and her son Mattie.  I was intrigued by the two storylines and wondered early on how the author was going to pull everything together.  As the story progressed, I could see the pieces falling into place, and it was done perfectly.

I would put the characters in this book right up on the pedestal with some of the characters from my most revered books.  They were delightful, charming, eccentric, endearing and I enjoyed every minute that I spent with them. 

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes ranged from heartbreaking, morbid, enchanting, hopeful, inspiring, and meaningful.  I would love nothing more than to get into all of the details that touched my heart and lifted my spirits, but this is a journey that was meant for the individual reader to immerse themselves in and reflect on.

This is a book that will not only be on my to-read-again shelf, but also on my list of favorites for the year.  Ruth Hogan has a new fan.

*5 Stars
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this was beautiful and heartbreaking. it was actually my first ruth hogan book, though i've got others on my list - i just love her covers. the characters in this were quirky and i really enjoyed them. it was a bit of a slow start but eventually captured my heart. emotional read.
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The story starts out slowly and disjointed as it introduces you to the main characters.  The central character, Masha, interacts with the others and gains valuable insight into life from them.  Though a lost child is the focus of Masha's pain and inablility to experience life, it is the motivating spirit and wisdom of the people she encounters that are the important part of the story.
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For a book called The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, there isn't a lot of Sally or her wisdom. 

Masha's son drowned when he was two and Masha has been surviving with this pain for twelve years. Early on she realizes, and many people tell her, that she needed to start living. She starts experiencing the world by meeting new people and doing new things. 

Then a twist happens that I saw coming or else that other POV was completely useless. And the twist revelation happens off screen. Trying not to spoil but I did not believe that this woman could ever be forgiven that easily for what she did.
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