Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book Review: We Are All Made of Stars

By Becky Gulc

I just loved The Memory Book (a.k.a. The Day We Met) by Rowan Coleman last year, a book that definitely deserved success. So when I received We Are All Made of Stars a while back, I was intrigued to see where Rowan’s writing would take her next, along with her avid readers! You can hear Rowan give an overview of the novel on her website. Otherwise here is the synopsis:

Do not miss me, because I will always be with you…I am the air, the moon, the stars. For we are all made of stars, my beloved… Wherever you look, I will be there.

Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to a soldier who has returned from Afghanistan injured in body and mind, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the secrets he brought home from the war.

During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones – some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret or pain – and promises to post these messages after their deaths.

Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time…’ (From Rowan Coleman's website)

Last year Rowan was on a mission to send a handwritten letter to someone each week, I was a lucky recipient, and now I know why as letter writing is a fundamental part of this novel. I thought the use of letter writing was just so beautifully and poignantly done in this novel, Stella writes these letters for people who are experiencing their last days in the hospice where she works as a nurse. I enjoyed how the letters were interspersed throughout the novel, some were from characters we grew to know, others we never knew at all, just their final messages. I enjoyed the little insight into these character’s lives, what their final messages would be when a relative stranger, Stella, offers to write these letters for them. Whilst many are very moving, there are funny ones too, I found it all quite thought-provoking.

Our main character is Stella, a woman struggling in her marriage to a man changed by fighting in Afghanistan, I really felt for her. She was literally running away from what seems to be an impossible situation every day; an incredibly sad situation that neither party are really confronting as they don’t know how to confront it. I felt the tension, the hope, and the helplessness for both Stella and her husband Vincent.

Then there is another key character in Hugh, a single man who lives with his rather special cat. A man who keeps himself to himself, until his new neighbour’s move-in, that is. It’s quite a while before there is any link between his story and Stella’s and I felt intrigued as I knew a connection would be coming, it was interwoven so well and I wasn’t disappointed. I definitely had a big soft spot for Hugh.

Then there are the characters at the hospice itself. Cue waterworks but happy as well as sad tears. Probably my favourite characters were Hope and Ben, Hope has always been ill (she has Cystic Fibrosis) and is constantly on edge expecting to get worse, more existing than living. I loved her and Ben’s relationship and how that evolved throughout the novel.

Again this is a book from Rowan which covers a tricky subject but it’s done in an uplifting and incredible way. Another book that will stay with me. I can’t wait to read the next one!

Thanks to Ebury Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Rowan Coleman:

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