Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase

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Pub Date 29 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 13 Jul 2021
Amazon Publishing UK, Lake Union Publishing

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His dying wish was to set her free. So why does she feel so trapped?

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.

His dying wish was to set her free. So why does she feel so trapped?

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...

A Note From the Publisher

Jane Riley began her career in public relations before moving into publishing and later launching an e-commerce business. She has freelanced as a writer and editor and wrote a design blog interviewing makers and creators. She volunteers as an English language tutor for the Adult Migrant English Program in Sydney. Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase is her second novel.

You can find her on Twitter @JaneRileyAuthor.

Jane Riley began her career in public relations before moving into publishing and later launching an e-commerce business. She has freelanced as a writer and editor and wrote a design blog...

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ISBN 9781542017350
PRICE $14.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 43 members

Featured Reviews

When her husband Jack dies of cancer, Geri is lost. Together for over 50 years, she struggles to see the point of going on without him. A sweet story of loss and grief, with a few chuckles as well. At times a bit skimmable when it felt a little repetitive, but otherwise, I really had a hard time putting this one down. A powerful message, and a great story. Highly recommend this book and author.

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A book about grief, letting go and moving on. I have a fondness for these kind of books. Books about the lonely often old woman/man who find new purpose in life. I have read this author debut book last year and enjoyed it so I expected same kind enjoyment. But this book didn’t do it for me. It’s sweet. Don’t get me wrong but it lacked a depth of emotions and description that is needed for me. I didn’t feel strongly for the characters in any way. 3 out of 5 for a good and sweet book.

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With grateful thanks to netgalley for an early copy in return for an honest opinion.
Have not read anything by this author before I was extremely intrigued by the fabulous cover but the storyline did not do it for me.
Not that it's not a good book just not for my reading.

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Quite a sad story about grief and loss. A change from my usual choice of reading but never the less I enjoyed this book. This is a moving and beautifully written book, and I fully recommend it to lovers of good storytelling with well thought out characters.

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Life was ‘Apple Crumble Days’ for super baker Geraldine until her beloved husband Jack died. Now her red wheeled suitcase is her world and within the confines of their house it feels like he’s still there. She’s struggling to cope let alone fulfil Jacks remaining wishes to ‘not give up’ and to scatter his ashes somewhere exotic. This is a wonderful sweet story about grief and the power of friendship struck through the unlikeliest of connections.

Despite the fact this book is about the different stages of grief it is actually very uplifting. Geraldine is simply wonderful as is the glorious friendship she makes with Lottie as they help each other to move on. Though Jack is obviously not actually present (!) this man of dreams fills every page with his sense of adventure, indomitable spirit and love for Geri. They are surrounded by a terrific community of young, old, eccentric, vibrant and caring people. The messages of the book are really good and are presented with originality. It’s funny in places too especially Benny and Ruby, two lovely children who are Geri’s neighbours. They are adorable. As you would expect there are some bitter sweet moments but it’s never mushy or maudlin, in fact, it’s the opposite. I love the progression through the different parts of the novel of the developing friendship, the clever chapter headings and the ending.

Overall, yes, this is about ‘misslieness’ ( a solitary feeling of missing someone or something you love) but it’s also very positive and life affirming. Yet again Jane Riley entertains with her quirky characters and lively writing style.

With thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing UK for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.

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Wow, I am finally done with this book. It took me a while to read but I got through it. I think it had more to do with reading about a character dealing with grief than the writing style that forced me to slow down. It wasn't the author's fault since I knew what I was diving into. Geri's loss had been depicted beautifully to the extent that I thought I was experiencing the same loss.

I loved how even though Geraldine didn't have any children or grandchildren, side characters helped her experience that form of love. Geri's friendship with Lottie and Len was admirable. The little neighborhood kids were adorable too!

I couldn't understand why this book was written in Geri's narrative. Things were happening in the lives of Lottie and Len, things that were talked about in detail but the first person narrative just didn't suit it since it felt like excessive information without direct impact toward's Geri's character. (Especially the situation with Len.) Sure Geri's compassion and kindness were apparent but it served no purpose truly.

Ah, Jack. What a sweetheart and gentleman. The cake. That just... it ripped my heart out and this is exactly why I have such high expectations for men! WHO WOULD EVER STAND THROUGH IT ALL?
Also, it kinda bothered me how there was no actual scene regarding the other characters' reaction to eating that cake. I would've liked it a lot if Len or Geri would've shared their thoughts.

Overall, it's a sweet book that takes you through a rollercoaster. The writing style clearly depicts the storm that brews inside of Geri. Each character had their little parts to play and was distinguished, which isn't easy to write. The ending was unforeseeable but cheerful nonetheless. I enjoyed reading it.

I received a complimentary advance review copy, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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NetGalley ARC Educator 550974

Grief never leaves you. It can be a constant in one's life or it can consume a life. This is Geraldine's story of how she moves forward after experiencing a great loss. This will invoke many emotions so be forewarned. It is with reading as there are some light parts in between the heavy moments.

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First, thank you for the opportunity to read and review this book.
I’ve only just finished this book and my eyes are still wet from the happy and sad tears I cried all through the last 25% of the story. I appreciated this story - as my professional background is in oncology nursing. The author does a fabulous job writing about the topic of grief and how the journey after loss is not only individualized but also sometimes complex. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading Geri and Jack’s love/life stories woven through the text. 5/5 stars.

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Being of "a certain age" I love reading about older characters I can relate to. Geri, the main character in this novel is and elderly lady who can't see the point of going on with her life after losing her husband of 50 years to cancer. She can't and doesn't want to let go of grief. Then she meets a young woman Lottie, who is going through a hard time in her life too, and can't let go either. Despite being so far from each other in age they form a friendship finding in each other something they have been missing:a mother/ grandmother figure and a daughter/granddaughter.
I loved the cast of supporting characters as well. It was good to see waht a great support net a good community and friends can offer.
It was heartwarming to see how Geri opens up to life again and how Lottie can set herself free at last.
There was also an unexpected turn at the end of the book that I loved.

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An interesting tale of a widow’s grief. How to let go? How to get up in the morning? How to keep friends from giving up on you? It did get a bit slow in the middle but never enough to make me want to quit Geri’s story. This will appeal to anyone with a beating heart.

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Geraldine "Geri" was sort of alright, but i did not feel that the character had much development , but some - yes. But the story was boring.

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I love these types of books, sad but uplifting at the same time. Isn't that how real life really is? What a beautifully written novel. While with a serious undertone it still has many funny, joyful moments. I don't understand the low ratings for this title as I adored it. It is well structured and accurate on several levels such as the personality of the main character and the detail of the different journeys she takes...both mental and physical.

I read this book in one sitting, not only because it is short but because I enjoyed being on Geri's journey so much. The best thing I took from this novel was the fact that Geraldine didn't do this on her own. It took a community that included old friends and new. All. The. Stars.

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Geraldine Verne the main character has been mourning the passing of her husband Jack, and does not know how to get on with her life.
This is a wonderful story of Geri's, slow progress to rejoin society. Her friends have tried to get her to go out and do things, but Geri would rather sit at home with Jack's ashes, which she takes with her everywhere in a red suitcase. The red suitcase was one of a matching set that she and her husband used when they traveled, in search of his passion, Butterflies.
Eventually with the help of two children, an old friend and a young woman who worked for meals on wheels, Geri finally started to slowly relive a life her husband wanted for her, and to fulfill one of his dying wishes.
I loved the character development and the issues that arouse, to make Geri once more, step out of her comfort zone.

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This was a beautiful, sympathetic story showing grief in all its forms and the slow recovery that follows from a loved one passing.

I absolutely loved Geri as a character - she was witty, quirky and loving - I really felt for her throughout her journey of rediscovering life. There were so many details in this that demonstrated just how low grief can bring you - from having two cups of tea to the sheer panic of losing the suitcase and it's contents. But it's also a wonderful reminder of life and how joyous it can be. Of how important friendships are - old ones and new ones - in bringing someone back and of helping them find joy again in life.

I loved how the relationship between Geri and Lottie wasn't just one-way - that they both actually needed each other. I also loved the interweaving of the backstory between Geri and Jack and the use of the Dewey Decimal System throughout the book which gave her grief so much context.

Absolutely wonderful book and I would highly recommend.

**Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and author for the opportunity to read an advanced e-copy of this book. All opinions are my own **

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There was so much to consider reading Geraldine Verne's Red Suitcase by Hand Riley. Geraldine went through many relatable steps in her attempt to move forward in her life.

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Awww. With a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye, I sadly put own Geraldine Verne's Red Suitcase.. I have read other novels of this genre...;Widowed older lady (or man) grieving the death of a beloved long-term spouse. But Jane Riley's book was simply delightful reading, beginning to end. Quirky Geri, having lost a few of her marbles after her Jack's death can still turn a phrase that makes you stop and re-read it because it is so perfect.

After 50 years of a wonderful marriage, losing her husband makes Geri kind of weird. She stops cleaning her house, eating meals, or going out. She keeps her husband's ashes in a red wheeled suitcase which she takes everywhere.
Fortunate to have good friends and neighbors, and a young and caring Meals on Wheels deliverer, Geri works her way back to life in Riley's charming and cleverly written book. It has enough suspenseful moments to keep you interested. But i urge you, hang around for the flying finish.

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for the chance to spend a few hours in good company.

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Geraldine Verne's Red Suitcase tells the story of a widow who can't quite find it in herself to be free after he husband's death. After years of a wonderful marriage, Geri loses her husband and her freedom. Even though he wants her to be free, Geri finds herself at home, wheeling Jack's urn of ashes in a red suitcase everywhere she goes. She doesn't leave her house for months, and when a friend sends her a Meals on Wheels subscription, Geri is at first angry, but is surprised to become friends with one of the volunteers. As Geri helps Lottie survive her own heartbreak, she starts to take the first steps out of the house and out of grief.

I loved Geri, but most of all, I LOVED Jack. Geri's processing of Jack's death helps us to learn more about him too, and oh my gosh, is it heart-breaking. It reminds me of books like A Man Called Ove or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I loved the references to baking and butterflies and traveling, and just found this book so sweet. At times it gets a little trite, but it wasn't too cliche for me. I recommend it!

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A happy/sad story about Geraldine Verne who is unable to cope after the death of her much loved husband Jack. She withdraws into herself and her home, stays in her nightdress all day and forgets to bathe and eat. At the same time she is embarrassed by herself and will not let her friends help her.

Geri keeps her husband 'alive' by putting his ashes and some selected memorabilia in a red suitcase which she talks to and takes everywhere with her. She seems to be sinking beyond recall, but life has a way of dragging you back, and a new friend plus a couple of near disasters with the suitcase eventually show her a new future.

This is a sweet story told with humour and kindness. I enjoyed the author's style and the way she writes her characters. Even Jack, although he is only represented by the red suitcase, shines as a lovely man who you would like to have met. There are kind neighbours, library staff and meals on wheels volunteers all of whom are looking out for people like Geri and are willing to lend a hand. It makes one feel positive about the human race!

A very enjoyable and comforting read with a satisfying ending.

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I absolutely loved this book and the main character Geraldine. She gripped my heart from the first chapter and never let it go. The author created an amazing character who seemed so real she could have been my mother or grandmother. The storyline was a mix of laughter and tears that spoke to me and I read late into the night to finish the book. I was sad to be done and I will miss Geraldine. I haven’t read such a. heartwarming story in a long time. A must read for anyone looking for a reason to smile amd appreciate life. ❤️

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A beautiful story of grief in all its forms and the slow recovery that follows from a loved one passing. I adored the character of Geri.

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What a delightful read from a new author to me. Geri's husband has died and left her alone, They were never blessed with children, but had many friends. However, Geri doesn't want to be consoled by them and develops a fear of leaving her home. After an accident, Geri begins receiving meals from Meals on Wheels and with the help of a new friend she meets through this service, Geri learns to let go and live again.

This story tells of the unbearable grief of the loss of a spouse.. Told through a series of chapters cleverly entitled--some even referencing the dewey decimal system, Geri communicates her love story in such a way the reader feels she simply is having a conversation with an older friend. Though the subject matter is depressing, the first person narrator has such a way with words and descriptions, the reader will cry and chuckle at the same time. The writing was exceptional. You will walk away glad you took this grief journey with Geri!

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in return for an honest opinion. Honestly one of the best reads of the year so far.

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Geraldine’s hubby of 50 years passes away and during the whole book she grieves for him in ways I’ve never heard anyone doing. She lugs him around in a red suitcase and takes him everywhere with her. It’s a very touching book and heartbreaking at times. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this early release in exchange for my honest review.

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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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Geraldine is having a hard time dealing with the death of her beloved husband Jack - so much she carries his ashes around with her in a red suitcase. This is a sweet story about overcoming grief and loneliness and learning to move on in life with the help of friends, even making new friends along the way. Like life, this book has some sadness along with a bit of humor. I recommend this enjoyable novel. Thanks to author Jane Riley, Lake Union Publishing, and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book for an honest review.

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A Lovely book. Geri's husband, Jack, dies and his last wish is that she take his ashes somewhere exotic. Geri can't bear to take herself out of the house and doesn't know how she'll honor his last request. It takes old friends, new fiends, and young friends to help Geri find a way. Chapter and section headings based on the Dewy Decimal System were a nice touch.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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