The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 May 2019

Member Reviews

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.
Was this review helpful?
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,
Was this review helpful?
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."
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
I find it hard to write this review properly, since I've just finished book and I'm overwhelmed with emotions, happiness and melancholy at the same time. In the beginning I had a kind of struggle, but story soon started to develop and I stared to enjoy it. And I enjoy it very, very much.

I'm not even sure what I like more - the part of story about life: (unexpected) friendships that make life worth living, hope and second chances, or part about death: grief and sorrow that it brings, but even more - the fear of it, which was very interesting topic to explore for me.

"I’m not afraid of ghosts – I find the living far more alarming. It seems strange that the Victorians, who celebrated death so splendidly, should be afraid of ghosts. I think they were more likely fascinated by the frisson of ghouls and spectres. The physical aspects of death were universally mundane, so perhaps the exploration of its spiritual mysteries injected some welcome excitement into what was otherwise commonplace... Of course, nowadays, people are rather uppity about the Victorians’ approach to death, condemning it as excessive, sentimental and overly dramatic. But I’m not sure our attitude towards it is any better. Our considered approach to death is to try very hard to ignore it. We can’t even say it. We say someone has ‘passed away’. We talk about having ‘lost’ someone, or someone being ‘late’. They are neither lost nor late. We know perfectly well where they are, and they’re not late, they’re just not coming."

I guess that death is taboo in today's society, but in fact it's the only thing we all have in common.

At the end, I must say, story is very well written, language is splendid and Ruth's humor is adorable. Sometimes I even had the feeling that I'm reading my own thoughts! Really nice, indeed!
Was this review helpful?
The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes........This is a well written novel that will have you dealing with a wide variety of emotions.

This story is about how Masha works to come to terms with a devastating event that occurred 12 years prior.  There is also Alice who is dealing with her own personal health issues and family problems.

The story is well written and the characters are likable.  This was an enjoyable and emotional read.  

Thanks NetGalley, Ruth Hogan and Crooked Kane Books for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
This book was so good.  Very heartwarming and smart. Even had a little plot twist! Loved it! 5 out of 5 stars
Was this review helpful?
After reading the blurb, I thought this would be a fantastic book.  However, I had a very difficult time getting into it.  Initially, there is a lot of stuff thrown at you, and little to tie it all in together.  I was about a third of the way into the book, and really could not figure out who was who and what exactly was going on, so had to refer to the blurb to try to make sense of things. I have never had to do that with any book before this one.  I think it would have been better had the author begun with a short overview of the basic theme/plot and then written the tie-in chapters, tying them into this foundation she provided.  As it was, I felt as if I was reading the most disjointed tale ever.  The basic plot was really good.  The mechanics of getting it out and across, however, needed a lot of work. I also did not get any warm feeling for any of the characters because they really were not well developed. Again, some tie-ins would probably have helped.  I have not read anything else by the author, and think I might, just to see if this is her style. It was interesting that, for me, the best part of the book was the ending. It all sort of came together then, but there really had not been any coming together before that.  The story is a fantastic one, one I think most readers would dearly love and one that would stay with them long after finishing. I do not see that happening now, because, as I said, the author needs to work on developing her theme and/or plot across/throughout the book, and not leaving everything so disjointed. I received this from NetGalley to read and review.
Was this review helpful?
Beautiful heartbreaking story about a woman living with debilitating grief who chooses to live again after she meets an inspiring group of quirky characters. In her second novel Ruth Hogan introduces the reader to some of the most amazing characters ever written. The story is seamless and engrossing. The words are beautifully written and quote worthy. This book broke my heart and mended it all at the same time. I am in love. Thank you #NetGalley for the chance to read this. Publication date June 11, 2019.
Was this review helpful?
I just couldn’t get into the storyline or connect with the characters in this book. I really wanted to enjoy it as the description and cover really drew me in.  Thank you Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.  The reviews are so great, and I think I just struggled to enjoy this one.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book. It had me hooked with the cover and the synopsis, and the story did not disappoint. Hogan’s writing is wonderful and I found myself liking the book better as the story went on.
This book is about grief. Masha’s son died at a young age and she never got over it. Two wonderful women come into her life, the eccentric Kitty and the elusive Sally Red Shoes and they help to teach her lessons that she needs to move on.
This really is a touching story and my heart grieved for Masha and her loss. I loved her big dog and the walks they took in the graveyard, the dinners she would get dressed up for with her interesting friends, and even how her trauma informed how she looked at the world. She definitely grew as a character and it was wonderful to experience.
Grief is a difficult subject to write on and Hogan did a beautiful job with a book that really touched me and made me think, laugh, and cry.
Thank you to Netgalley and Two Roads for the review copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books!

Masha used to have a great life but a tragic event over a decade ago changed that.  Suddenly she befriends Sally red shoes and that great life starts to come back.

Okay, normally I love books that have quirky characters and no exact story line, but I struggled to feel pulled into this book.  I tried.  I really did.  I wanted something more, but it was so drawn out with so many characters, that it was hard to focus on what was happening.  Looks like others loved it though!
Was this review helpful?
Masha's life was changed forever by a catastrophe twelve years ago. She just can't let go, but finds comfort in her dog, Haizum.  Sally Red Shoes, a bag lady with a secret history. She also, speaks the things she wants to say but part of it's due to a malfunction in her brain. Masha feels as if drowning, it may be a peaceful end, so she goes swimming everyday as today could be the day. She haunts the Victorian cemetery as the ones buried there bring her a type of peace. Masha has friends , Kitty and the mysterious Sally Red Shoes. This is a sad story with characters who grow and lessons are learned. No matter who you know and how long you know them, there are still hidden things. Where there are birds, there are angels, is something I won't forget. There are children's deaths and the effects of losing those you love. I cried big, ugly tears, but there are some great parts that don't make you cry but that brings hope. I loved this book and recommend it highly. I received this book from Net Galley and Crooked Lane Books
Was this review helpful?
I loved this beautifully written novel about loss, hope, love and redemption. The author has blessed us with some very unique characters that interact in a very satisfying way. We could all use a Sally Red Shoes in our lives and benefit from her insightful wisdom.
Was this review helpful?