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Listening Still

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A story of life and death.

Listening Still introduces us to Jeanie Masterson, a woman who has a gift: she can hear the recently dead and give voice to their final wishes and revelations. The story begins with Jeanie's parents unexpectedly announcing their plan to retire. As Jeanie begins to realise what this might mean for her future, she starts to think about her past and the choice she had to make when she was a teenager: to stay or leave for a new life in London with her boyfriend.

This book explores such an interesting concept which frames a quite traditional story of a woman reassessing her life and choices along the way.

For a book that explores death, it’s also very funny in parts - who wouldn’t love to know what secrets their neighbours are harbouring!

I was curious to see how the concept of being able to hear the dead would be approached and I think it was explored really well by Griffin. As the dead can only contact Jeanie for a finite amount of time after they die, it really adds to the urgency of the moment. The emotional toll of hearing the last wishes but also the grief and pain of the recently dead leaves you with great sympathy for the protagonist.

For me, where this novel excelled was in its exploration of the vulnerability of people and the importance of finding peace at the end of your time. Life can be hard, difficult, complicated, and Listening Still explores the sadness that we can carry around with us. But also our bravery. In life and in death. And also the bravery of those that are left behind.

It’s a book about people and an emotional read at times, but definitely one I think is worth reading.

(Listening Still is out now - my thanks to Hodderbooks and NetGalley for an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review).
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Thank you to Netgalley, Hodder & Stoughton and Anne Griffin for this e-copy in return for my honest review.  I loved When All Is Said, so I must admit I was a little anxious to read this follow up, but boy was I wrong. Such a beautifully weaved story, full of life and death and everything that goes in between. So heartfelt and emotional. I'm a little bereft at having finished this.
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Ghost Whisperer meets Six Feet Under! But then also plenty of other things too. 

Being the biggest fan of Ghost Whisperer, I was immediately taken hostage by the synopsis. And what a wonderful reading experience this was... Is it weird to say hostage and then wonderful, one right after the other? Oh, well. Don't take me seriously all the time.

Jeanie is the ''listener of the dead''. She hears what the dead have to say, and along the way, she tries to resolve the issues they might have carried over with them. She may casually also play the ''dead stats game'' with her dad and the postman. The dead don't stick around for too long, just to deliver that last message, and then they are gone. But this is her family business. It's quirky and strange, yet comfortable and all she knows. She cares for the people everyone loved, and loves doing it. 

But when her parents announce that they are retiring and moving away and leaving it all the Jeanie and Niall, everything starts crumbling. She starts to question all of her choices in life. Is this for sure what she wants to be doing? Did she marry the right guy? Is this the place she should be? Should she have gone to London with the love of her life? These and many more things are answered by the end. 

To start off, I knew about Anne Griffin, because I've wanted to read one of her previous books before because everyone told me amazing things about it. It totally makes sense that Listening Still did not disappoint.

Writing: This is clearly an author who does not struggle with pacing at all. Never did I feel bored, lulled into sleep, impatient, uncomfortable... The story went by, page by page, flawlessly, from start to finish. 

''Sometimes happiness is like the sun sneaking through the clouds. It's fleeting, that is all. The rest is simply living.''

Characters: Jeanie is trying to find her happiness, but she's struggling. She goes through a lot and tries to run away from it all, but you can't really, not from your life or yourself. Jeanie is a complex character. She has her ups and downs and struggles just like everyone else. One minute I'd like her, the next minute not so much, but I also reckon she doesn't like herself sometimes either. 

Next to Jeannie, I really liked her best friend Peanut. Niall was a sweety, but that is all. I felt for him so much, because I saw the whole thing coming and it was awkward. 

I also have to add that the author sprinkled in humor in certain places and through dialogues so naturally, that I couldn't stop smiling at times, even though there are some difficult themes in this book. 

This book deals with a  lot: finding your purpose in life, marriage, love, family, grief, dying.  It covers a lot but it's so masterfully done, that it doesn't feel like a burden. 

I'd really recommend this book to everyone who loves books about self-discovery, the shows I mentioned above, books like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman or Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman or Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan.
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Jeanie Masterson works for her father at the family undertakers in Kinross, a small Irish town where everyone knows everyone and each others business.  From the time she was a child,  her future is mapped out for her.   Her parents are retiring to Baltimore in Cork and as expected Jeanie and her husband Niall will take over the family business.
Jeanie posesses a special gift,  she can hear the dead speak for a short while after they pass.  She uses her gift to pass on messages from the recently deceased person to their loved ones left behind.  Jeanie learns about life and regrets from these messages and they start to affect her own life as her own relationships leaving her with a lot of questions.

This is a wonderfully written book touching on the themes of hopes, regrets and lies.   Is it better to tell a lie that comforts or tell a truth that hurts ?"
  
"Listening Still" is a  beautifully  written book which was honestly written  and hard to put down. A book which stays with you long after you have finished reading it.

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton, NetGalley and Anne Griffin for an advanced copy of this beautiful book.
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I was intrigued by the premise of this book - a woman working at the family undertakers who can speak to the dead before they’re finally laid to rest. Whilst that’s definitely a theme of the book, and one which leads to some of the most touching and emotional moments, it’s by no means the main topic of this novel. 

Jeanie has been raised around the dead, dealing with the fallout from their deathbed confessions when she has to tell their loved ones about secrets and lies that possibly should have gone to their graves. But she has also allowed a sense of responsibility to the dead, and her family, to keep her in her small hometown rather than following her first true love when he ventures to London.

Did Jeanie make the right decision in marrying Niall? Despite an ability to converse openly and honestly with the dead, why can’t she talk to the people around her and articulate what she really wants? 

I enjoyed this book, and found the characters realistic and likeable. Despite the oddness of the premise within what is ultimately a story of a woman questioning her choices, the scenes where Jeanie talks to the dead don’t jar as much as you’d expect. It feels natural in the context of the book, and is an interesting plot device.

Some of the descriptions of the funeral parlour could be upsetting for those who may have recent experience of losing a loved one, but it’s never insensitive or graphic. There are some very touching scenes, and it really does make you think about why we sometimes leave things until they’re too late.

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder and Stoughton for my arc in return for an honest review.
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This book has a very unique storyline. Jeannie Masterson  has a remarkable talent she can converse with the dead, this skill has been handed down from her father which can be a blessing and a curse in equal measure.

Jeannie works alongside her father, husband and aunt in the family firm of undertakers in the small Irish town of Kiilross.. when Jeannie parents announce they are planning to retire it makes her question her life. Why does she not feel excited about the prospect of starting a family?  does she want to stay in the small town forever.. Does she truly love her husband.? Should she have taken a chance on her first true love and moved to London to be with him? Has obligation directed her life path? 

This book explores the what ifs? I could relate to Jeannie feelings of wanting to please others and losing herself along the way ,, This is an enjoyable , well written, engaging read and one I enjoyed once I got into the storyline. 

Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for my chance to read and review this book .
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I must have been one of the very few people who never got around to reading Anne Griffin’s debut When All is Said which garnered huge critical acclaim. Now she is publishing her second novel Listening Still and I knew I shouldn’t let the opportunity pass me by to read it. Yes, initially, I had some slight misgivings, would it be too literary for me and combined with the concept of being able to speak to the dead, well that just seemed to be too far-fetched. Right from page one my fears were allayed and I was quickly immersed in a magnificently told story that I devoured in a day. I couldn’t leave this book out of my hands. It was so beautifully written with the perfect pacing and characters which have you deeply invested in their story. There is so much to take from this wonderful novel and without doubt I believe this will be another huge success for the author.

Given the subject matter this could have been a morbid, dark, hard to digest read but instead it was the total opposite. Don’t get me wrong it’s not all light and fluffy. In fact far from it, but it’s the perfect balance between light and shade that is achieved that makes for an intriguing and thought provoking read. From the minute Jeanie Masterson hears the news that her father is retiring from the family funeral director business and handing it to her she just wants to run. In fact for years before this point she had wanted freedom, to escape from the weight of expectation but family obligation had put a stop to this and since then her decision to remain and its consequences has always eaten away at her. She loves what she does but at the same time she remains torn by those that need her and what she actually wants herself. She inhabits a world she both loves and fears. Mastersons funeral directors is unique and people come from far and wide to have their family members tended to on their final journey.

Jeanie and her father David have a special talent in that they can speak to the dead. She is the last of the line that can listen to the dead and pass on information to those that still remain. This puts untold pressure on her for sometimes those still living do not wish to hear what has been said, whilst others take great comfort and solace from what Jeanie is able to pass on. There is a brief window in which messages can be passed on before the persons soul departs this world for the last time. I thought this was going to be laughable and just far too over the top but instead with such a deft touch the author turns something unrealistic into something fascinating. So much so that you wish it could be true. How our lives would change if we could just make contact for one last time with our lost loved one. The little stories that emerge from those passing on were interesting and at times added a lighter touch to the story. Yet they didn’t dominate for this really was Jeanie’s journey to a conclusion far from certain or foretold.

I thought the talking to the dead strand of the story would dominate the overall plot instead it is just a small facet to the overall person that is Jeanie but it feeds seamlessly into the overall story. Her complex past and the things she feels so deeply which still affect her now start to take over as she grapples with the decision to remain and continue the business or to escape which she has longed to do for so long. This involves so much soul searching and questioning. Everything in her life is analysed and the relationship she has with Niall is examined and dissected. The true Jeanie that she has suppressed for so long and the one that perhaps she let go when she shouldn’t have start to reappear. Nothing is clear cut with her and usually I would find myself making judgements on the overall plot and characters fairly early on but here I went with the flow as such as unbiased position was presented to the reader. 

In spite of this there were times when I found Jeanie frustrating in the way she treated Niall. It’s like his feelings weren’t taken into consideration. She became almost self-centred and too focused on trying to regain what was lost in the past. Niall had been her friend for years growing up before friendship turned to love but was it true love on Jeanie’s behalf or was she settling for second best? She wonders ‘Why aren’t we braver, we humans - why hadn’t we the courage to tell it like it was when alive - fear haunts and silences us?’. Now with a decision to be made Jeanie is starting to learn more about herself and she knows testing times are ahead. Is it time for her truth to come out? Can she cope with what the journey she must undertake? Can she deal with upsetting/hurting those that are closest to her? Is the weight of expectation that she has shouldered for so long just far too much? Does she still regret a choice she made so many years ago? Should duty and obligation always win out or should we listen to our heart and follow to where it is calling us?

The news from her parents feels like an abandonment and a betrayal. Why should she be left the business even though her husband Niall and Aunt Harry both work with her as embalmers? Not to mention the impact this upheaval will have on her brother Mikey who is autistic and to whom routine and regulation is everything. You get the impression from the first few chapters that Jeanie is weighed down by something. That it’s not just her frustrations with the business or the duty she feels to her parents that has her reacting in the way she does to the news. To understand what motivates her and what her thought process is, we are taken sporadically back to her childhood, adolescence and into her young adult years. 

These glimpses help the reader understand how she reached the point in her life that she inhabits today and the connections she forges with the people who have passed give the reader an understanding as to why she feels so stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to accepting or declining her father’s offer. ‘But they can’t actually physically hold you here, Jeanie, the living or the dead, not if you don’t want it. You have agency over your own life’. But does she really? Did she not make a life long commitment when she turned down an opportunity to follow her heart all those years ago? I loved this description of how Jeanie feels as she wrestles with her decision trying to take all the facets of her life into account. In my mind, it actually sums up how grief begins to take hold of us as well. ‘Everything inside of me was falling, splitting, rivers of cracks making their way to every corner of me’. 

Listening Still is a fantastic read and very different from my usual genres of choice but I am so glad I read it. It has such a clear, well structured narrative although I will say the big family secret didn’t have the impact on me that I felt the author wished to achieve. It wasn’t all that shocking and it for me it just came too far out of nowhere and didn’t have the impact on the overall story that was needed. To be honest the secret could have been omitted and I would still have been very happy with the way the story meandered towards its conclusion. This is an excellent read and Jeanie definitely gets under your skin in more ways than one. It will leave you with much to contemplate and I look forward to reading more form this talented author in the future.
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Listening Still by Anne Griffin. 
I had read and loved When All is Said by the same author so I was really looking forward to reading this one. It is a good read and it will keep you involved to the end but I did not feel as excited by this book as her previous one.  There are twists which will keep you engaged but I did not really warm to Jeanie, the lead protagonist.  She appeared self-absorbed and childlike, despite her age and although the reason for much of her behaviour is made apparent as you read on it did not make me engage with her.  Her background and the family business and why it thrives was an interesting notion. I felt the story lacked depth of character and I did not feel involved in the lives of the characters.  This ultimately was not the book for me although it was well written and engaging.  I would like to thank Net Galley, Anne Griffin and the publishers for the opportunity to read the book in return for an honest review.
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I was a huge fan of this authors previous book, When All Is Said so was really looking forward to reading this!

We are introduced to Jeanie Masterson who has a very unusual gift. It comes in very handy for her job at her family's undertaking business, but when her Dad tells her that the is retiring and expects her to take over Jeanie realises that she is not sure if she is ready, or if she even wants to do that. It is the catalyst for Jeanie to give her life - past, present and future, a full-on assessment, in the hope that it will help her make her decision. 

This is a quirky, interesting read with some very believable and relatable characters. And I really loved the little nod to the wonderful Maurice from Whan All Is Said!
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4 Star Read for me.  I loved the premise of this, and surprisingly I really enjoyed that 'talking to the dead was not a secret.  That it didn't go the route of social pariah or ending up all being a mental health issue like other books with supernatural elements.  It was well written with characters that were well developed and three-dimensional.  Although the main character Jeanie was the most fleshed out the others had dimension to them, with layers of emotion and motivation to their actions.  This all allowed you to feel that this was very real, and the rules around speaking to the dead added to this.  I really liked how respectful and humane the dead were treated in the book.  For me I went into this thinking it would be mainly based around the dead's secrets and the mysteries and obligations of this.  But in reality, it was more a domestic drama, where talking to the dead was just a part of the job.  And while I was interested in Jeanie's marriage and her struggles with intimacy, indecisiveness, and her choices, I was more invested in the dead than Jeannie and feel that more time with them would have added a more interesting layer to the book and made it a five star for me.  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3978969106
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I was sent a copy of Listening Still by Anne Griffin to read and review by NetGalley. This novel had a great concept with protagonist Jeanie having the gift (or curse) of being able the hear from the dead, with their last words for loved ones being audible to her since childhood. This was more than just a book about the last musings of the recently deceased, it was very much a book of family, friendship and most notably love. The story is well written with believable and well fleshed out characters, but I did feel that I expected more somehow. I would recommend it to any reader who enjoys ‘familial’ writing, which I feel the Irish do seem to do best, though for me there was some small spark missing that I had experienced in her previous book, hence the 4 stars.
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Reading the summary and reviews on this book before I had a copy for myself, I was really excited to get stuck into it. Anything where a character has to consider different paths they might have taken thrown in with some good flashbacks showing what lead them to where they really are now automatically piques my interest. And people seem to love this book! So I definitely recommend giving it a shot if you like those things. 

As for me, I found it difficult to get into at first, and began my reading quite slowly. I love the voice the author gave to the town of Kilcross which really took me back to my own time spent in Ireland, so I loved that. Protagonist Jeanie Masterson is spirited and feisty but it is easy to understand how she ended up feeling trapped in a life made up of safe choices. I really wanted her to experience all of the exciting things she expresses desire for throughout most of the book and at many points it felt like she would get to.
However, the story itself gets bogged down in its own safe choices and by the end of the book I was questioning if anything had really changed for Jeanie or if it was just a matter of who was involved and how. For a strong and independent character, a lot of her big choices seem to be made by someone else.

I would say that “Listening Still” carries more of a gentle and nostalgic character study than a strong and eventful narrative, which is fine but maybe could have been a little firmer in its execution. Had I realised these things before I read it I might have enjoyed it more, so I would still recommend it to others with this in mind.
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The premise to this book is unusual - Jeanie Masterson lives and works at her parents' undertaking business in Ireland, and, like her father, she can hear the dead for a short while after their passing.  However, that is really the setting rather than the meat of this book.

Jeanie is married, but still carries a torch for her first sweetheart, who moved to London.  The story follows her relationships and how she interacts and deals with events.  The 'listening' elements add interest to the story, as we learn what sort of things the dead are concerned about and want to communicate back.  But above all we learn about Jeanie and her life.

A lovely, uplifting and touching story.

Thank you to NetGalley,  Hodder & Stoughton and Sceptre for allowing me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A beautiful book that will linger with me for some time. Jeanie is an undertaker who can hear the newly dead speak. She conveys their last words of love, confessions, or just where the gas money is. But all this responsibility can be a burden and when is the truth too hurtful? Griffin is an amazing writer who lets her characters speak for themselves with simple directness that seems effortless but is exceptional. I loved it, smiled, cried and wished we all had a chance to say a few last words at the end. As Jeanie finds out, we do, but it takes courage.
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Thanks to Netgalley and Sceptre Books for an ARC in return for an honest review.
Listening Still by Anne Griffin is the story of Jeanie Masterson and her family. This is not a grab you by the throat type of novel but it is engrossing and is wonderfully written.
Jeanie works in the family undertaking business with her husband, father and aunt. Jeanie shares a talent with her father, the dead speak to them in the space between dying and burial. 
The story begins as Jeanie's parents break the news that they are about to retire. The narrative flows back and forth from when Jeanie was a young child who discovered that the dead spoke to her to the present. We follow Jeanie through school, lifelong friendships and first love. 
Listening Still asks questions about what happens in life when you put others needs before your own. It's full of wonderfully delineated characters and never descends into overt sentimentality.  It made me smile, it made me cry and it made me think and I loved the way the story flowed.
Jeanie is a gorgeous character, human, flawed and genuine. Anne Griffin writes from the heart and her writing is a joy to read.
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From the first page you are drawn into both the place and the people who own and run a family funeral business set in a small town not far from Dublin. We meet Mikey who is on the spectrum and lives in a shed in his parents' garden where he quietly reads and files magazines on military campaigns. We meet Jeanie Masterson who can talk with the dead as they lie in their caskets - a trait seemingly inherited from her father. We meet Arthur, the postman, who helps out as pall bearer not to mention the somewhat sad Niall - embalmer, as well as Jeanie's husband. Each of these characters, and many others are wonderfully brought to life by Anne Griffin. So much so that any reader will be drawn deeply into the narrative and find themselves conflicted as to whom to support as the story unfolds.
The scene is set when Jeanie's father takes the decision to retire and tells Jeanie he is passing the business on to her. Neither he, nor Niall, foresee the impact this shall have on Jeanie and how she finds herself suddenly forced to re-evaluate her life - past and future. Heartache, death, long-held friendships, and loyalty to the family and the business all feature in ultimately guiding her to a solution. What she decides I'm not telling.  What I can say though is, whilst you are seeking the answer, an engaging, gentle and very enjoyable read awaits.
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At the age of 32 Jeanie Masterton’s life is turned upside down when her parents Grainne and David decide to retire to Baltimore on the coast of Ireland and leave Jeanie in charge of the family Funeral directors business in Kilcross. Jeanie has an inherited gift she can speak to the dead for a short period after their death she is a ‘listener’ . Her husband Niall is the ‘best embalmer in Ireland’ or at least one of them! Her parents are taking her older brother Mikey, who has been diagnosed as being on the spectrum, with them to Baltimore. Jeanie wonders if the ability to hear the dead for a short time, only a few days, after the person has died is a gift or a curse. She has the responsibility of passing on the messages from the dead to the bereaved; they often bring comfort but in some cases they can be hurtful and she questions whether she should always be truthful to the bereaved. The novel explores Jeanie’s honesty and truthfulness both in her relationships and at the funeral directors as a ‘listener’. At the heart of this novel is a love story, Jeanie and Fionn were meant to be but Fionn, a photographer, moves to London and Jeanie chooses to stay in Kilcross and marry Niall.
The characters are realistic and the story is well plotted and Jeanie’s ability to listen to the dead is treated as something natural and doesn’t make it a fantasy novel. 
Another great novel from Anne Griffin.
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This book is brilliant and I'm very happy I could read it because i discovered an excellent author.
I loved the style of writing, the well developed characters and the atmosphere of the book.
It's a poetic, thought provoking read and I loved it.
I want to read other books by this author and this one is strongly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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After loving When All Is Said by Anne Griffin I was excited to read their second novel and loved it just as much as their first. 

The story follows Jeanie, a women in her early 30s who works for her family's undertaking business and has inherited the family gift of being able to speak to people for a short period after their death. This gift brings the responsibility of carrying out their final wishes and passing on messages to their loved ones. When her parents want to retire, Jeanie has a big decision to make about whether she wants to dedicate the rest of her life to the business or follow a new path. This decision prompts Jeanie to reflect on previous opportunities she let pass her by and contemplate what her life would have been if she had made different choices.

What I loved most about this book is the way that Jeanie's gift and the work of the undertaking business is a crucial aspect to the plot and Jeanie's sense of identity and purpose, rather than feeling like a gimmick. I also loved how the story and characters were realistic and complex and that the plot didn't glamourise Jeanie's gift, or take any easy ways out to resolve issues for the purpose of a happy narrative, but actually embraced the messiness of life and the choices we make.

Another brilliant novel from Griffin and I already can't wait to see what she writes next. Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder and Stoughton for the ARC.
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Listening Still is a dazzling and utterly beguiling much-anticipated new novel from Anne Griffin. It centres on 32-year-old Jeanie Masterson who has a rare and exceptionally strange gift: the ability to hear the words of the dead for a short period of time after their passing. Inherited from her father this is a unique talent that worked its way through the generations of the Masterson clan. The small Irish town of Kinross, the type of place where everyone is aware of each other's private business, is where they call home and it is also where they own their business - Masterson Funeral Directors - where Jeanie honed her skills lending a listening ear to the recently deceased and in time we are introduced to the rest of the family. There are her parents, her Aunt Harry, who helps embalm the bodies, as does her husband, Niall Longley and last but by no means least her Autistic brother, Mikey, who prefers things to run at a constant without the type of changes that frequently cause anxiety and worry for Autists. Passed down from generation to generation, this gift means she is able to make wrongs right, to give voice to unspoken love and dying regrets. She and her father have worked happily alongside each other for years. 

However, now he's unexpectedly announced that he wants to retire early and leave the business to her and her life is called into question. Does she really want to be married to the embalmer, or does she want to be with her childhood sweetheart, off in London? Does she want to have children, and pass this gift on to them? And does she want to be stuck in this small town, or is there more of the world she wants to see - like the South of France, where she's discovered a woman who shares her gift? Tied to her home by this unusual talent, she begins to question: what if what she's always thought of as a gift is a curse? This is a wonderful slow burn novel showcasing Griffin's stunning prowess as a masterful contemporary storyteller. While it doesn't quite have the sheer magic embodied in When All is Said, this remains a captivating, compulsive and charming follow-up. The prose is beautiful yet not too purple, the surprises are many and the heart and soul within the pages is plentiful right from the beginning through to denouement. Following the journey of the Mastersons, but in particular, Jeanie, those who enjoyed Griffin's previous novels will find much to love and a world to escape to here. Highly recommended.
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