Blog Tour Book Review: The Choir On Hope Street by Annie Lyons
Nat’s husband has just said the five words no one wants to hear – ‘I don’t love you anymore’.
Picture-perfect Caroline has to welcome her estranged mother into her house after she was forced out of an exclusive nursing home.
Living on the same street these two women couldn’t be more different. Until the local community centre is threatened, galvanising Caroline and the people of Hope Street into action. But when the only way to save the centre is to form a community choir – no one, least of all Nat, expects the results…
This spring, hope is coming!
Published 6th April 2017 by HQ Stories
Oh my! This is just a lovely, lovely book! It made me laugh, smile, yearn to be part of a choir and yet at times it also made me struggle to swallow the lump forming in my throat and blink through blurring tears.
The Choir On Hope Street tells the story of two women, Nat and Caroline, in alternating chapters. Both women are going through a time of uncertainty and change, with their family dynamics shifting and the lives they'd grown comfortable with reshaping. Nat's husband has just dropped a bombshell - he doesn't love her anymore and is moving out. In emotional turmoil, she finds herself bumping, quite literally, into Caroline, and before she knows it she's agreed to join a choir in the hope of saving the community hall on the street. But despite her perfect image, Caroline's family is also under great strain, exasperated when her elderly mother's care home states they can no longer meet her needs due to her increasingly challenging behavior. Never a strong relationship, things are even more fraught. But her mum has a secret locked in her diminishing memory that will change everything, if only Caroline can find a way to unlock it.
These two women endeared themselves to me thoroughly, so that I became fully immersed in their stories, feeling as if I knew them myself. I loved Nat - she reminded me of myself in some ways. Chaotic, emotional and a little bit sarcastic. But there's something really likeable about her too, and when she's at her lowest I felt like I just wanted to give her a hug. At other times, I wanted to sit down to a bottle of wine with her, her quick wittedness and outlook making me smile.
Yet it was Caroline's story which I felt most connected to. Caroline is the opposite of Nat - she's the PTA mum, the perfect wife and host, aiming for the higher social circles and everything done in capable and organised precision. At first, I didn't particularly like her but as her story unfolded, it brought tears of understanding to my eyes. Like Caroline's mother, my grandmother had dementia and Annie Lyons perfectly captured this terrible and heartbreaking disease. I saw my own Grandmother when I read her descriptions of the small, unrecognisable lady Caroline saw and recalled the feelings of frustration and grief, at having lost someone who is still there. There's a particularly touching scene that made me choke up completely, and I think Annie Lyons tackled a difficult and emotional subject with true tenderness, understanding and care.
The Choir On Hope Street surprised me by being not as light as I first imagined it would be. Yes there are funny, laugh out loud moments but there's also depth to this story - one of facing change, the real ups and downs of family life and how when what you know and think you want shifts and life takes you in a different direction, it can turn out for the best. I really loved the importance the community held for these two women, and it made me both smile and a little sad and wistful to be part of such a wonderful community myself. But the overall feeling of this book is hope...and that's how I finished it. Smiling, comforted and hopeful, and like I'd just spent a few hours with old friends. An absolute gem of a book.
(I read an advance Ebook edition courtesy of the publisher)