Oh my goodness! Rabbit Hayes! I am coming completely clean now; I had never met or even heard of Rabbit Hayes before the blog tour invite for Below The Big Blue Sky ( thank you Tracy Fenton!) popped up in my inbox. I loved the sound of the story so much I signed up without a clue that there was a prequel, The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes. A prequel that had completely past me by. But, hey, no matter this meant I got two for the price of one.
So what do you need to know? Well Below The Big Blue Sky by Anna McPartlin, like it’s predecessor is written with heart, humour and compassion. This book picks up where the first left off. We find the quirky, close knit Hayes family in a hospice immediately after the death, from breast cancer, of their beloved Rabbit. Rabbit is, or was, a journalist; but most importantly she was a mother, daughter, sister and friend. A fiery, fighter of a 30-something woman taken before her time and kicking cancer’s sorry ass right until the end.
If The last days of Rabbit Hayes is about coming to terms with Rabbit’s diagnosis, Below the Big Blue Sky is about how the Hayes family begin to cope with life without Rabbit. And it isn’t easy.
For Juliet, life without her mother is numbing. She is now the ward of her Uncle Dave, and this means moving away from Dublin and starting a new life in the United States, a life that fits around Davey’s commitments as a touring drummer. And for Davey himself, grieving his baby sister while parenting a teenager, stretches him to the limit.
Grace is coming to terms not only with Rabbit’s death but also with the fact that she, herself, carries the gene which killed her sister. The decisions that come with this revelation are not to be taken lightly and become a source of family tension.
Losing their daughter rocks the marriage of Jack and Molly Hayes. Both seem changed beyond measure, faith is no longer the bedrock it was and suddenly everything seems to be spiralling out of control.
And what of Rabbit’s best friend Marjorie? Suddenly she is facing huge life changes and chances but without her sounding board and support at her side.
This is a novel that deals with those strange and disorienting days after a death. A novel that faces down the immediate practicalities and the lingering, roaring pain. It details the way a family comes together and equally the way it sometimes fragments as the individual members find their own pathways through their loss. Anna McPartlin creates stunning characters, that convey quite beautifully how unique grief is. And how loss and pain manifests itself in any number of different ways.
This is a novel that focuses on the process of grieving and coming to terms with loss. It is about the things someone will compromise on and the things that really matter. It is about that balancing act of bringing everyone’s beliefs and opinions into play, whilst holding on to the essence of the person who is lost. This novel deals with death in a warm, human and deeply humorous way. The narrative raises all those tricky, but important questions. In a society where we speak of death in whispers and veiled words this book faces things head on. Yes, there is tragedy, but this novel is filled to the brim with humour and humility.
Anna McPartlin’s screen writer background is wonderfully apparent in the novel; the dialogue in these pages is absolutely spot on. These are characters you can see, feel and almost touch. Having read the two novels back to back I felt like I had spent days in the arms of the Hayes family and it was a lovely place to be. And just as the sense of character is grounding, the sense of place, history, back story is equally impressive.
This is the story of family tested to it’s limits. A family that has to refine itself and at the same time remember just what it is that makes them strong and unique.
And always …
And there is more…
Catch up with the rest of the Below The Big Blue Sky Blog Tour…