The Borrowed Life of Frederick Fife

A Novel

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request. Sign In or Register Now
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date Sep 10 2024 | Archive Date Nov 05 2024

Talking about this book? Use #TheBorrowedLifeofFrederickFife #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


For readers of Remarkably Bright Creatures and The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a warm, life-affirming debut about a zany case of mistaken identity that allows a lonely old man one last chance to be part of a family.

“Would you mind terribly, old boy, if I borrowed the rest of your life? I promise I’ll take excellent care of it.”

Frederick Fife was born with an extra helping of kindness in his heart. If he borrowed your car, he’d return it washed with a full tank of gas. The problem is there’s nobody left in Fred’s life to borrow from. At eighty-two, he’s desperately lonely, broke, and on the brink of homelessness. 

Fred’s luck changes when, in a bizarre case of mistaken identity, he takes the place of Bernard Greer at the local nursing home. Now he has a roof over his head, three meals a day, and, most importantly, the chance to be part of a family again. All he has to do is hope that his poker face is in better shape than his prostate and that his look-alike never turns up. 

As Fred navigates life in Bernard’s shoes, he learns about the man’s past and what it might take to return a life in better condition than he found it. 

Bittersweet and remarkably perceptive, The Borrowed Life of Frederick Fife is a feel-good, clever novel about grief, forgiveness, redemption, and finding family, from an exciting new voice in fiction.

For readers of Remarkably Bright Creatures and The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a warm, life-affirming debut about a zany case of mistaken identity that allows a lonely old man one last chance to be...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780063397293
PRICE $30.00 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (EPUB)
Send to Kindle (EPUB)
Download (EPUB)

Average rating from 10 members

Featured Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow for an ARC of The Borrowed Life of Frederick Fife.

Sometimes, in between all of the horror and thriller books I read, I need a book that warms up my cold, dead heart 😅 and this one definitely fit the ticket. A sweet, silly story that reminds you of the truly important things in life. I laughed, I teared up, and I rooted for Fred to get his happy ending. I see this being 2024's "Remarkably Bright Creatures" and a big hit!

5 super cute stars

Was this review helpful?

"The Borrowed Life of Frederick Fife" tells the heartwarming tale of Fred, an elderly man mistaken for another named Bernard and taken to Bernard's nursing home. Here, Fred finds solace, learns about Bernard's past, and forms deep connections with the residents and staff. Through his journey, Fred discovers the importance of family, forgiveness, and redemption, finding a sense of belonging in his twilight years.

While the ending is uplifting, the book delves into profound sadness and tackles heavy topics (be sure to check the trigger warnings). Although some dialogue may feel forced, the story is well-paced and emotionally-driven. Overall, it's a solid choice for those who appreciate themes of found family, identity, and love and sacrifice, particularly if you enjoy a slower-paced read with a heartfelt message.

Thank you William Morrow and NetGalley for the advanced copy.

Was this review helpful?

This book was a good one! It was incredibly heartwarming while diving into some heavier topics. The wisdom throughout was beautiful. I really enjoyed it.

Was this review helpful?

“Grief’s blunt force could still wind him on bad days.” Frederick Fife’s wife, Dawn, had passed away ten years ago. She was his home, the love of his life. His circle of friends were gone as well. He was penniless and about to be homeless. Walking to the bank of the Wattle River, he noticed a man in a wheelchair feeding the seagulls. A bizarre accident occurred. “Dizzy, queasy…searched for words to protest but found none…the wheelchair lift raised [Fred] into the van. “Did they honestly think he was that poor bloke?”

Fred’s protests fell on deaf ears as he tried to convince staff from the Wattle River Nursing Home that he was not the wheelchair’s occupant. “For a moment, he forgot about his predicament and felt nothing but gratitude…[the cuppa and cookies offered] the flavors coated a delicious memory-they had been his dear Dawn’s favorite…he visited her in his mind…the memory wrapped itself like a warm blanket around his broken heart.”

“Where on earth was he? And why was he in a wheelchair?...Then, like a fast-acting laxative, it all came flooding back…the river…the seagulls…the body…the name.” Bernard Greer, his look-alike, was a grumpy old fart who resided at the nursing home. Fred tried again, “I don’t belong here…I’m Fred”. A caregiver returned with a DVD- The Fred Astaire Collection. “Fred deferred the decision to his tummy…he savored the…long forgotten sensation of being truly full.”

“Would you mind terribly, old boy, if I borrowed the rest of your life? I promise I’ll take excellent care of it.” Fred now had to learn to be Bernard Greer. This included pants wetting, name forgetting, and no fish and chips [food allergy].

The old Bernard had a personality reboot. Once a crusty codger, he now had a heart of gold. His humor, kindness and helping hand were witnessed by both residents and staff. He sprinkled pixy dust, snuck out and visited the mall incognito and orchestrated a magnificent celebration. His quest to learn more about Bernard opened a window of opportunity for a new passenger.

“The Borrowed Life of Frederick Fife” by debut author Anna Johnston is an emotionally drawn, heartfelt novel full of love, longing, regret and redemption. The powerful ending brought this reader to tears!

Thank you William Morrow and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

The Borrowed Life of Frederick Fife is a lovely heartwarming story about an 82 year old gentleman who gets a second chance in life to have a family. Fred is 82 years old, widowed with no family or friends and about to be turned out of his apartment because he can’t pay the rent. Then through a strange turn of events and a case of mistaken identity Fred “borrows” the life of Bernard, a man the same age, and an uncanny physical resemblance who has passed away.
This story is so well done and moves along at a good pace. It reflects on our growing senior population and what many of them face such as loneliness, financial instability, loss of friends and loved ones, dementia, and how to care for these older adults as they enter the later stages of their life. Amidst these tough and sometimes sad topics we meet Fred. He is remarkable! He has a zest for life even though he has experienced great loss and is full of kindness and compassion and humor that he spreads to those around him. As Fred navigates the Wattle River Nursing Home we are introduced to some endearing residents and staff, and a few that especially need some help. Fred is up to the task and looks for ways to make the lives of those around him better. In doing so he enriches his own life and has the opportunity to find community and a new family at a time in life when he least expected it!
I just loved this debut novel by author Anna Johnson! Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow for the ARC. This is my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

After reading the synopsis for this (plus former listening to - and loving to the point of buying - audiobooks of The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (❤️Jim Broadbent) and Remarkably Bright Creatures (❤️Marcel)), I knew that I wanted to read this.

When I first started this, I felt like maybe I had made a terrible mistake in requesting this - I was looking for cozy and heartwarming - and this brought up the real global problem of homelessness, an accidental burial at sea, as well as an ill child. So, I was wary.

Needlessly, as it turned out, (and okay, I did really have to work to engage my suspension of disbelief in parts), but I very much enjoyed this; I smiled, I got teary, and I adored Frederick.

Thank you to William Morrow and NetGalley for the DRC

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: