The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is described by its author, Rachel Joyce as a 'companion' to her earlier book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Published in 2014, it gives Queenie's side of the story. In the earlier book, Harold had set out to walk 627 miles to see Queenie who was dying, in a hospice in Berwick- upon Tweed. On the way, he gathered a cast of characters who walked with him.He came to terms with the death of his son, came to an understanding with his wife and gave purpose to those he met on the way. All Queenie had to do was to wait for him as he came to say goodbye.
In this companion piece, we stay with Queenie in the hospice but she takes us on a journey through her past. We learn about her feelings for Harold. We also learn of other secrets which she has kept, concerning Harold's son, David.
Although the book is principally about the end of life and the process of dying, this book is far from depressing or downbeat. It is an uplifting read, full of humour which is delivered with affection for the inhabitants of the hospice. Instead of sitting waiting to die, everyone becomes involved in waiting for Harold. One by one, they lose their lives which is signalled by the arrival of the funeral company's hearse.
I found the story quite engrossing. Queenie's struggle to write the story with Harold's journey in mind, supported by Sister Mary Inconnue, is at times agonising. Told in matter of fact, uncomplicated language, in contrast to the appalling nature of her illness, the starkness of Queenie's fate is there for all to see. This is a book full of the tiny, everyday details of human behaviour. It rings true.
In short: a inspirational read which deals with profound issues with humour and sensitivity.