Cover Image: Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase

Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase

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Member Reviews

I have mixed feelings about this book. My heart ached for the main character, Geraldine. The loss of her husband was such a heartwrenching experience for her. And seeing her approach each day without him by her side was sad. But her behavior was so quirky … and not in a funny and entertaining way. I just could not connect with her and had to force myself to keep reading. I finally reached the end and felt just meh! However, I am one of a few who was not blown away by this book, so I would encourage you to read it yourself and see if appeals to you.

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for my advanced review copy. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

For more reviews, please visit my blog at: Over 1000 reviews posted!
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A sweet story about completing dreams and wishes and creating a relationship that you can look at fondly. 

Thank you NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this.
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Have requested this book a while back and forgot all about it. So glad I requested it and remembered to read it. 
Geraldine's story was quite emotional - having lost my grandfather a few months back, I felt her grief for the loss of her husband. 
I could picture her as my grandma and it was truly emotional seeing how she coped with her loss.
Loved all the characters, although I felt like the Len's and lost daughter's story could have been left out as not really relevant to the narration. 
Would really recommend for a light but inspiring read.
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There were laughter and tears present as I read this book.  I adored it. Having experienced grief myself I understood Geri. I love the friendship that she developed. There is hope. 
Many thanks to Amazon Publishing UK and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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After the loss of Geri's husband, she was heartbroken. She drags along her little red suitcase with her husband's ashes around the home, while her friends try to help with her grief. I could not complete this book because it was too sad and repetitive. I wanted Geri to pick up her life but it did not happen until 30% of the book so I had to give up.
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My thoughts 

Narrative and Plot 

With a compelling voice and an elderly charm, Geraldine Verne's Red Suitcase is one of those stories that can easily touch your hearts with its simplicity. Grief is a powerful emotion. The book portrays it with grace and feeling.

The story is mostly character-driven. It is basically the journey of Geraldine Verne and how she overcomes a difficult phase in her life with a little help. This simple story is executed beautifully that it brings a smile to your face while reading. 

Characters and Conflicts  

While Geraldine Verne is the main character and the narrator of the story, there is enough room for other supporting characters who make an impression.
Mrs Verne is witty and feisty which makes the story all the more interesting. While she portrays this eccentric old woman, Lottie's character creates a balance by being as grounded as possible.

The conflict of the book is one's own inhibitions and fears which is quite relatable. To read about someone getting out of it can be quite inspiring even if it is fictional.

The only thing if I had to point out would be, we never get to know much about Lottie and where she is coming from. However, that is forgivable since this is mostly Geraldine Verne's story. 


If you're looking for a heart-warming and uplifting book , this one is for you. The story is quite self aware of its limitations. It does not do anything grand and yet, it makes a point by reminding us to rejoice in the simple joys of life.
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After her husband, Jack, died, Geraldine cut herself off from the world.  She became agoraphobic, and wouldn’t let anyone in her house, even friends who tried to help her.  All that changed when Lottie, a young Meals in Wheels volunteer, begins to deliver meals and friendship.  An odd pair, both quirky and unique, Lottie and Geraldine  form a bond that helps Geraldine move forward.  I really enjoyed this book, and recommend.  Thanks to NetGalley  for the ARC.
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Geraldine Verne is struggling through the grief of losing her beloved husband, Jack, after 50 years of marriage.  He was her soulmate and they still had so much they wanted to do together.  So, she carries around a red suitcase as a substitute for Jack.  She dances with him in her home, drags "him" from one room to another and even takes him for an outing to the zoo.  Worried about her mental health, her good friend, Len, signs her up for Meals on Wheels so she can get fresh food delivered daily.  Geraldine resists at first but soon finds friendship with one of the Meals on Wheels volunteers, Lottie, who is dealing with her own sort of grief.

I loved this novel!  It's such a sweet book about grief, but also about love and companionship.  From the neighborhood kids who she finds herself baking for (and who in turn bake for her) to her friend Len who keeps an eye out for her, to 20-something year old Lottie with whom she forges a new friendship.  Through the love and encouragement of those around her, Geraldine finds a way to process her grief, let go of the past, cherish her memories and move forward.  

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this e-copy of the novel.  You can also find my review on Goodreads and IG
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Geraldine Verne and Lottie form a very unlikely friendship, after Geraldine loses her husband and Lottie gets broken up with. Geraldine is having a hard time coping with the loss of her husband after fifty years of marriage. She's been stuck in the house for months, not going out, not talking, not wanting to take care of herself.  Her friends do their best to help her, but changes seem to happen only when Lottie is introduced in her life, through Meals on Wheels.

I loved Geraldine's character. She's 72 years old and even though she is grieving you still get to see bits of her personality pop through; she's quirky, funny, blunt, kind and gentle. I loved how she described how handsome and sharp her friend Len looked: ''You're looking sharp, Len. Like a block of Parmesan cheese.'' She's just cheeky at unexpected times, but you feel no malice radiate from her. She's just freaking funny and adorable. It was difficult and emotional to read the parts where Geri couldn't deal with her grief and how she couldn't let go and how that influences the people around her.

I feel the author managed to beautifully portray the complexity of emotions when you're dealing with loss. You're sad and lonely and you don't need anyone, but at the same time, you don't want to be lonely and you need people around you. 

But apart from loss & grief, we also watch a friendship between Lottie and Geri grow and blossom, we see the importance of people in life who support and understand you, and love you, and how asking for help and just letting people see you and be by you in the darkest of times can be healing on its own. It's wonderful to see two women help each other to regain confidence and the courage to keep living life. 

If you've ever read Britt-Marie Was Here or A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, you're going to really enjoy and appreciate this book. This is exactly my kind of a book, therefore, I am giving it all the five stars I can.
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A struggle for me to get into this book, as I found it all a bit dreary and dull and the suitcase actually annoyed me. Sorry not for me.
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Overall, this was a sweet story of letting go and it's mostly about grief and dealing with it. Geraldine is a childless woman in her 70s who's just lost her beloved husband and she's dealing with it in increasingly weirder and more dysfunctional ways. The story is about how her friends helped her deal with it and how she got better.

It was meant to make you feel warm inside, I could tell - but I know I won't remember the story after I close the book, and I found myself bored quite a few times. However, there will definitely be readers who will be more in tune with the themes, so I think it can be a meaningful and enjoyable story, just not for me. It does have a few triggers though, they are [PLEASE READ ON GOODREADS BECAUSE I CAN'T SPOILER TAG THEM HERE.]

In this book, I was only really uncomfortable with one thing - the hobby of the main character's husband, catching butterflies and pinning them in boxes. It's talked about as if it's romantic, but... It's just killing. It's killing beautiful butterflies. It's even mentioned that it's not allowed anymore, because species are going extinct. And I do get that it's realistic that pensioners of now might have had this hobby in the past, back while it was perfectly acceptable. But it was quite upsetting for me to read 'romantic' descriptions of a man waiting to catch AND kill a beautiful creature, to put it in a box in his room. Catching and killing butterflies was described as sensitive and romantic. Not something I'll ever understand, and I don't feel like this is something that should be romanticized.

I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
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My thanks to #Netgalley and #AmazonpublishingUK for the opportunity to read this book.
This is the second book by Jane Riley and I’ve loved them both.
She has a gentle way of telling a story that is thought provoking and within the realms of possible personal exsperience.
Loved the characters and the heartwarming ending.
Fingers crossed that there is another book on the way
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Geraladine is a  70 yr old senior lugging a red suitcase everywhere she goes.
I first thought she was in a marriageless relationship and to escape, she has a red suitcase  at her side  wherever she goes. 
The story explains what is really inside the red suitcase...and her prolonged greiving in every decision she makes every day.This suitcase listens to her  vents, and decisions she must make,for she has remained in isolation  three months when her spouse of fifty years, Jack has passed away .He leaves behind notes and instructions for her how  to continue living without him.
She meets two children selling cookies, a Meals on Wheels Volunteer and her  library freinds , Len,an old freind, plus loyal freinds who all coax her to start living again.It was a slow read at first but as I got moire into the book, it held my interest. 
Gerry, learns how to continue living alone in a new journey  without her partner.Her mourning is a compassionate and heartwarming  read and the strength she gains from old and new freinds .I found myself chuckling, teary eyed,and sighing. Rooting for Geraldine and  scolding just wanting  push her out that door .
Thank you Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced copy pre read for my honest and solely my own opinion review.
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Jane Riley’s unusually titled debut novel The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock was something special – feel-good fiction at its finest and one of my favourite reads of 2020. And so I knew, despite this novel’s grief-stricken premise, that I would be in safe authorial hands.

Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase is a far gentler story than Riley’s first novel, but nonetheless impactful. Her capacity to craft believably flawed characters is again on full display in retired librarian Geri’s compulsion to obstinance and seclusion despite her loneliness. The first-person narrative allows readers to appreciate first-hand as it were, the layered depths of her love for her husband and thus comparable grief in his passing. And, how even the most vital of personalities and quick-witted, staunchly independent of minds can knowingly be held prisoner to grief.

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After spending fifty years of her life with Jack, Geraldine is alone, with only the urn holding his ashes to hold onto, while she struggles to navigate a life without him. It’s only been three months, but her grief has isolated her and she finds herself unable to let go of the grief which now serves as her companion. She’s let herself go in the process, no longer caring about how she appears to others.

She spends her days trying to lose herself in television or watching the neighbors children through her window, or reliving moments with Jack. The first time they met, in her days as a librarian, she recalls his love of butterflies, many of which he framed and are still on the walls of their home. A reminder, these days, as sweet as those memories are, that he is gone. With no children for family, her only family was Jack. The memories she treasures most were formed with Jack. Their adventures, their travels, chasing butterflies, their life and love was complete. But now that he is not there, she is left with only the memories and his ashes, and can’t bring herself to open the door and her heart to imagine a new life without him.

Neighbors stop by now and then to check on her, but her main interaction begins with the children across the street, after noticing the muffins and lemonade they seem to be selling, she hesitantly opens her door and remembers the children she never had, the children they had wanted. She calls them over, still unable to bring herself to venture beyond her door, and the girl crosses alone, offering her a muffin. She overpays for the muffin, and gives her some sunscreen at the same time. A friendship begins.

When she finally does manage to venture outside, she has a fall which requires a brief hospitalization, and a neighbor arranges for Meals on Wheels to deliver meals for a time. Another friendship develops with one of the young women delivering the meals.

Grief serves as a paralysis of life and love, for her the only person she feels capable of talking about her grief with is the one person she is grieving for. But these new people who enter her life offer brief moments where she begins to let a bit of light in. In listening to others, she begins to see that she is not the only one struggling, and her new journey begins.

Shared in the vein of the quirky charming ways of Harold Fry’s Pilgrimage, I felt like those people cheering him on as he neared the end of his journey, and cheered Geraldine on as she slowly begins to let herself relive those memories, holding onto the joys, after all, ’isn’t that what grief is, a form of love?’.

Published: 29 Jun 2021

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Lake Union Publishing / Amazon Publishing UK
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Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase is the second novel by Australian author, Jane Riley. Retired librarian Geraldine Verne has been a widow for three months, and she’s not coping too well. She’s not yet ready to let Jack go: his urn is inside her battered red cabin-luggage-sized four-wheeled suitcase, so he can be with her all the time. She can even twirl him round, have a dance together.

Jack was as close to the perfect husband as she could get: clever, and much funnier and more romantic than you’d expect an accountant to be. He was an adventurer, and their trips to exotic places on butterfly-spotting tours were always exciting. The Butterfly Room in their house is testament to that. This was a man who, even in his last weeks, set up a cryptic conundrum, clues for his Geri-pie to follow to his final, sentimental gift for her.

Their good friend, and widower of Geri’s best friend Pam, Len Goodman is trying to get Geri to come out to Bingo, to the club, but she’s resisting: “The thing was, when it was only Jack and me in the house, it felt like he was still with me, but in the presence of others, it was disturbingly clear that he was very much gone.”

Geri knows she should try but: “It wasn’t that I no longer cared, rather I felt less bothered, as if I was hooked up to an IV drip of apathy, a slow transfusion of listlessness.” She really prefers to stay inside and just watch what happens in the street: the kids across the road with their lemonade stall, the passing parade of life. 

Panic attacks mean she can no longer make herself walk out to get the newspaper, and shopping online is coming in very handy. She does wish the neighbours would stop trying to involve her in things like Neighbourhood Watch and the community Nature Strip gardens (Jack’s innovation a decade earlier). “I felt stuck in a loop of self-isolation and brain fog, and no good to anyone. I knew the outside world didn’t mean to badger, but I wanted to hide from it.”

Len tells her she may have Complicated Grief Disorder; Geri thinks she’s feeling “every form of CGD – from Crotchety Geriatric Disorder to Common Garden-variety Disinterest.”

Then a trip and fall, a trip to hospital, a sprained wrist and twisted ankle: with the best of intentions, Len organises Meals on Wheels, just until he’s back from his vacation. Geri grudgingly accepts, but keeps the volunteers at a distance… except for one: Lottie seems to have a sense of humour and, despite more than forty years between their ages, they can relate to each other. 

Which is handy, because it turns out they need each other. Jack’s last wish: “I don’t want you to die with me. I want you to keep on living. When I’m gone, when I’m reduced to ash, take me somewhere exotic so you can take yourself somewhere exotic too” isn’t going to happen without some help.

Riley gives the reader a story that’s sad and funny, sweet and romantic, heart-warming and uplifting, and will certainly bring to mind A Man Called Ove for some. The community that surrounds Geri is one that many would wish for in advancing years. Riley has a lovely turn-of-phrase, making this a very enjoyable feel-good read.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing.
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I’m sorry. I really thought I’d enjoy this based on the description but I just couldn’t get into it at all. I struggled through a little over half and then just left it. I intended to go back but never did and don’t feel like I’m missing out. Just not the book for me.
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Might be a strange story for my taste but I am also surprised that I did not even hate it. Most of
its chapters are either sad, lonely, grieving, or all of it. But this whole story had almost had my
heart melted.

It is a love story beyond words. Geri`s suitcase almost represents the baggage all of us carry. It
may not be visible to others but I am sure everyone has their own. It all varies in size as well.
Some have bigger baggage but barely mind it at all and some have so little and can not totally
handle it well. I can never emphasize more these words that “ there is also strength in asking for
help” not everything thrown at us requires that we do it alone. Everyone thinks so at first. Geri
also thinks the same she was so stubborn for months. Their friends are trying to help her but her
stubbornness won`t budge. Until she had an accident she can`t escape from. Her ankles are
trap at the wrong angle and her wrist is in pain, she can barely move. This starts with her being
a bit more approachable. A start where she also embraces the hard and painful reality.
I love the supporting characters such as Len, Rubby, and Benny. But mostly Len, He stood
there for Geri for he knows the feeling of losing your partner. How the chapters were titled was a
bit cute as well. It varies from places or things that would resemble the current chapter. It was
witty and a clever way rather than just writing numbers.

A story of starting over and standing up again. Kind of motivational but more of a drama. A book
that can make a tough man`s heart soft. Lovely yet not a moving story.
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3.5 Stars
Seventy-two-year-old Geri is a widow; Jack, her husband of 50 years, has been dead for three months when we meet her.  He asked her to scatter his ashes “somewhere exotic” but Geri finds it difficult to leave her house, feeling “stuck in a loop of self-isolation and brain fog.”  She describes herself as “frozen in time, shackled to my self-pity, my grief, my fears.”  A friend arranges for Meals on Wheels when she has a minor accident; Lottie, one of the volunteers, befriends Geri and tries to get her to rediscover her zest for life.

The book is about grief, about learning how to let go and move on.  At one point Geri compares their love to a pair of shoes:  “Jack and I complemented each other like a pair of shoes.  A right shoe can never become a left and a left shoe can never become a right, but together they bring out the best in each other.”  She has difficulty letting go “Because if I let him go, what would be left?  The half that was me.  One left shoe without its partner.”  The red suitcase that she takes everywhere is a wonderful representation of her unwillingness to let go.  

Geri is a likeable character.  She is grieving and so not herself.  She abandons personal hygiene and housekeeping and becomes anxious when she leaves her house, even if she has to walk only nine metres to pick up her newspaper.  When a friend comes to her door, she doesn’t let him in:  “I was happy to see him.  I just didn’t want him to see me.  To see the state I was in.  How I no longer felt like the person I was before.  How I didn’t know who I was anymore.”

Even though she is depressed and lonely, we are given glimpses of the Geri that could emerge if she can get past her grief.  Her sense of humour is wonderful:  “I slid under the covers feeling as dispirited as a non-alcoholic beverage.”  Because we see these glimpses of a spirited woman, readers will cheer every positive step she takes.

I appreciated Geri’s emergence from her chrysalis.  Because it is gradual, her change is convincing.  And there are some steps backward too.  I imagine some readers will feel that there is repetition as Geri seems to backslide into depression; I, however, found that her recovery is more realistic because of her emotional regressions.  

This is one of those easy, heart-warming reads.  Though it examines grief and the difficulty of moving on after great loss, it suggests there is hope:  it is possible to bring new people and experiences into one’s life without dismissing or diminishing what one had with a beloved.

Note:  I received a digital galley from the publisher via NetGalley.
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EXCERPT: I stared at the clock on the wall. It said one-thirty, but surely it wasn't the afternoon already.

I sunk further into the sagging back of the chair. I felt small and sad and very sorry for myself. Things that had previously consoled or even gladdened me were no longer doing the trick. I felt out of kilter, like a crooked painting on the wall, or a cheese straw without paprika. A house with no windows. A dog with one ear. I could go on. I could go to the library and look up section 400-499 English Language to find the perfect metaphor, but would it actually fix anything? I glanced at the clock again. It was still one-thirty. Had the clock stopped? Who knew? All I did know was that I was frozen in time, shackled to my self-pity, my grief, my fears. I was like the 'i' in the middle of my name, trapped between other letters, unable to break free. I wanted to be alone, yet I was lonely. I wanted to stay home, yet I felt isolated. I wanted to be with my husband, but he was dead. Tears sprung forth as if I was chopping onions, and my heart flapped so vigorously that, had it been windy outside with no roof over the house, I may have taken off. I couldn't bear the sight of the clock looming over me, reminding me of my fate, any longer.

With a surge of adrenalin and rage, I exploded from the armchair, my focus solely on pulling the wooden-framed clock with its black numbers and unmoving hands off the wall. I saw nothing else, not even Jack. I should have, because there he was, in the way. My foot clipped the underside of the suitcase and got stuck. I upended the wheels, lost my balance, and floundered. A flaying arm knocked the christmas tree, the suitcase handle right-jabbed my chin and I fell as if in slow motion, landing with a thud on the living room floor, two suitcase wheels and five christmas tree branches needling me in the back. My right ankle was at a wrong angle and my left wrist in pain. And it was still one-thirty.

ABOUT 'GERALDINE VERNE'S RED SUITCASE': Jack had two dying wishes: that his wife scatter his ashes somewhere ‘exotic’, and that she not give up on life once he was gone. He intended to spur her on to new adventures, but despite clinging to her red suitcase, Geraldine Verne hasn’t left the house for three months.

It takes an accident for Geri to accept help from her friends, but when Meals on Wheels arrive she is mortified. Yet heartbroken volunteer Lottie brings with her more than cottage pie and custard. Like Geri, she too is struggling to cut loose.

As a gloriously unlikely friendship blossoms, Geraldine begins to feel a long-lost spark of life and a newfound confidence. Perhaps what both women needed most, after all, was each other.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this book. I loved Geraldine. I loved Lottie. I enjoyed every tear I shed as I was reading, and every laugh that escaped my lips. And there was plenty of both. I even loved the chapter titles: 306.7 Love; Apple Crumble Days; Toilet Paper; Whisky and Cake . . .

Divided into four parts, the story is told entirely from the perspective of Geri (Geraldine), mostly in a linear timeline with occasional flashbacks in the form of memories. It is a story of grief, the grief of a woman who has lost the love of her life after more than 50 years together. Geraldine describes their relationship as being like a pair of shoes, one left, one right. They were not the same but complemented one another, they worked well together. But now that she is only one shoe . . . well, you see her problem.

She thinks that if she just pretends he's still there, and he is, then everything will be all right. She still makes him cups of tea, puts out biscuits for him, dances with him. And if she can shut out the world that is going to remind her that he's not there, all the better. But the world has other plans for Geri, as did 'Jackie-Boy'.

Geri is one stubborn lady. I have to admit to seeing more than a little of myself in her. I loved her kind heart, her sense of humor. I loved her devotion to Jack. I loved Jack.

Even the supporting characters are 'characters'. I am sure that we all know a Len, a Crystal and a Sue.

The first part of this book is sad. I cried a lot, and laughed a little. The second part I laughed a lot and cried a little. Parts three and four are mostly humorous, heartwarming and just occasionally sad.

This is the second book by this author, but the first that I have read. I will be seeking out her first.


#GeraldineVernesRedSuitcase #NetGalley

I: #JaneRiley #AmazonPublishingUK

T: @JaneRileyAuthor

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Hi, I'm Jane Riley!

I was born and raised in New Zealand. After graduating from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in French and English literature, I headed to Europe to practise my French, got waylaid in Germany and ended up in Australia.

I have had a varied career in public relations, publishing, freelancing as a writer and editor, and launching an online e-commerce business, which involved writing a design blog interviewing makers and creators. When The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock was published, I achieved my dream of becoming a full-time author.

I live in Sydney with my husband, an energetic but scared-of-heights Australian cattle dog-staffy cross, and two daughters old enough to not be living at home anymore. I volunteer as an English language tutor for the Adult Migrant English Program, am learning the piano and teaching myself Italian.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK for providing a digital ARC of Geraldine Verne's Red Suitcase by Jane Riley for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage
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