I kindly received an ARC from the publisher via Book Bridgr in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. Thank you to Louise Swannell at Hodder & Stoughton and Mike Gayle.
About the book
Published: 16th June 2016 (Hodder & Stoughton)
Tom Hope is broken. Ever since his wife Laura died he hasn’t been the same man, and definitely not the same father. Luckily however, his mother-in-law Linda is there to pick up the pieces and look after his two struggling daughters, Evie and Lola.
But Tom getting arrested on the first anniversary of his wife’s death is the last straw for Linda.
She decides on drastic action, and in a final attempt to make Tom reconnect with his daughters, Linda leaves for Australia. Now, with two fast-maturing girls on his hands, Tom has to learn how to accept his responsibilities and navigate the newly discovered world of single fatherhood – starting immediately.
While Linda finds her journey brings more than she bargained for, Tom suddenly has only himself to rely on.
Will he fall back into grief or finally step up and be the father his girls need?
Bittersweet, funny and sad, THE HOPE FAMILY CALENDAR is a novel about grief, love and family
Firstly, I will start with a little bit of a disclaimer, I am a long-term fan of Mike Gayle’s books right back from the first one My Legendary Girlfriend which was first published in 1998 so I was thrilled at receiving his newest novel! Gayle’s books were (and still are) a breath of fresh air, written by a man from a man’s perspective, I remember reading Turning Thirty as I was turning 20 and it felt a lifetime away….but it was all so true, I read Turning Forty (equally as hilarious) in preparation for that time which is fortunately still a little while off!
Gayle’s books have always been a combination of humour and emotion however The Hope Family Calendar is amazing. When I kindly received the ARC, the press release received with it stated ‘The Hope Family Calendar is a new direction for Mike….has written his most emotional novel yet’, I was both excited and a little anxious with the new direction – however it most definitely does not disappoint!
The Hope Family Calendar is told from the first person perspective of both Tom and Linda which gives a well-rounded narration to the story. Tom is drowning in his own grief following the tragic death of his beloved wife, Laura. Linda, Laura’s mother, is basically taking care of the family single-handed whilst Tom tries to escape his grief by working all the hours he can and drowning his sorrows in the bottom of an alcoholic drink. Evie and Lola are being cared for by Linda and their father is just someone who occasionally comes home before they are in bed.
Linda knows that this isn’t healthy for any of them so takes drastic measures by going to Australia for 6 month to visit her friend, Moira. Tom, still in the self-pitying, selfish stage of his grief is angered by his perception, ironically, of Linda’s selfishness. Thrown into the deep end, Tom has two choices whether to sink or swim.
What follows is the emotional fall out from Linda’s departure for them all, how both Tom and Linda cope without one another, both dealing with their own grief and the idea of moving forward, moving on.
As I have already alluded to, this book is beautifully written, the words just flow off the page and I really felt like I was part of the family; experiencing the ups and downs, feeling the happiness and the despair.
I loved all the characters, although at times I just wanted to give Tom a shake and tell him to pull himself together for the girls! Linda is a wonderful grandmother and extremely patient mother-in-law. I particularly liked Clive, the older gentleman who rebelled against a grief counselling group with Tom; he helped Tom deal with his emotions and despite the age difference, they formed a strong friendship.
The Hope Family Calendar is both brilliantly funnily and heartrendingly sad, I did not want this book to end and actually slowed down my reading to make it last that little bit longer. This is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time and I will truly miss the Hope family.
About the author
Mike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology Mike moved to London with ambitions of becoming a music journalist. This didn’t happen however and following a slight detour in his five-year plan he ended up as an agony uncle for teenage girls’ magazine Bliss before becoming Features Editor on the now much missed Just Seventeen. Since those early days Mike has written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Cosmopolitan.
Mike became a full time novelist in 1997 following the publication of his Sunday Times top ten bestseller My Legendary Girlfriend, which was hailed by The Independent as ‘Full of belly laughs and painfully acute observations,’ and by The Times as ‘A funny, frank account of a hopeless romantic.’
To date Mike is the author of twelve novels including Mr Commitment, Turning Thirty and Wish You Were Here. His books have been translated into over thirty languages.
You can read more about Mike’s books here.
After stints in Manchester and London Mike now lives in Birmingham with his wife, kids, two sheds and a rabbit.