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Karen R. (Locust Grove, VA)
An emotional and satisfying read
The more I read, the more this book captured my interest and increased my compassion for the parents of a severely disabled child, Freya. At first thinking each selfish, I sympathized with both Annie and Tobias and the path each chose to survive emotionally, fumbling along in their own way dealing with the constant care and seizures of Freya. Sadly as happens in real life, the nurturing of their relationship often came last. To make their lives even more complicated, they move from London to a crumbling, rat-infested farmhouse in a remote town in France. Some of the locals who became a part of their circle, Ludovic, Yvonne, Julien, were charming characters. Although a work of fiction, upon reading Sara Shah's notes and acknowledgements, the symptoms and prognosis of Freya mirror those of the author's own daughter. The strong emotions captured in the book come from a place in her own heart. Very well done and gave me tremendous insight and renewed appreciation for the caregivers of the world.
Elizabeth L. (Beavercreek, OH)
Beautifully written story on a difficult subject
It takes a special gift to take a difficult subject (profoundly disabled child) and make a beautiful story from it. The author's personal experience with a disabled child makes this story shine. At various times I loved and sincerely disliked both Anna and Tobias which made them seem all the more like real people who were struggling with how to cope when life isn't want they wanted or expected.
Daniel A. (Naugatuck, CT)
The Mouse-Proof Kitchen
The supporting characters were finely drawn and every character was entirely believable. This is a story for anyone who has struggled to fit into their life or make their life fit their expectations.
It hits exactly the right note; not too cheery to be genuine and not too depressing to enjoy. Excellent read.
I liked this story overall, and the writing style enabled me to read it quickly, but it has to be the most depressing novel I ever read.
Karen L. (Wilton, IA)
The Mouse-Proof Kitchen
There are two sayings that came to mind while reading this book: 1. If it wasn't for bad luck, there would be no luck at all, and 2. If there wasn't any laughter, I'd be crying right now.
The author used levity for the first half of the book, but when the laughter ran out, it put this reader more and more into despair.
The ending changed all the negatives into a positive for me and after I read the author's notes, the story made more sense, as if Ms Shah wrote this book as therapy for coping with her own real-life daughter's disability at birth.
I am looking forward to her next book. (if there is one)
The book starts off slow but after I was almost half way through the book, I couldn't put it down. The characters are flawed but very human, very real and none of them are all good or all bad which is very true to life. This book would be good for book clubs because I think there are many discussion points. I think it would be good for those who have a disabled child or for friends and family of disabled children. It's a good reminder that life isn't perfect but it can be good anyway. I would recommend the book to just about everyone. The book surprised me because I thought I knew how things would turn out but I was wrong. I was happy I was wrong in my predictions of how things would turn out.
Dorothy T. (Victorville, CA)
Sometimes life gets a little messy
The phrase on the cover of this novel gives a good indication of what to expect inside. The central character is Anna, who likes order and planning, but when her daughter is born profoundly disabled she finds she has a lot to learn about being flexible, and more so after she and her partner move into a disabled home in a remote area in France.
Michelle N. (Hillsdale, NJ)
Loved this book from start to finish...
The author gave me a lot to think about regarding love and relationships, particularly the kind of unconditional love it takes to face difficulties. She also has much to say about motherhood: are we the mothers we are because of the mothers we have, or in spite of or as a reaction to the mothers we have? Anna is forced to confront these issues, and the result is a compelling read.
There are some plot turns that I found puzzling, especially near the end, and I found some of the language unnecessary, but this is a good read and a great choice for book clubs.
When I read the first chapter of this book, my first thought was that it was a book that would be dealing with some heavy-duty issues- Anna and Tobias, the main characters, have a baby that is born with severe mental issues. They are so severe that Anna and Tobias are not sure they even want to take the baby home! But they have been looking for a house in France, and they find a run-down old villa that Anna thinks might be perfect for opening a restaurant. The story of Freya, the baby, is interwoven with descriptions of Anna & Tobias settling into their new home (which is literally falling down around them) and is enhanced by a cast of quirky neighbors and wonderful descriptions of the countryside, Anna's cooking and constant attempts to keep the mice (!) out of the kitchen, as well as the nature that surrounds them in their villa, from bugs to the food that grows to the strange animals. It is wonderfully written and draw you completely into the story, and just when your not sure how it can possibly end, the author does a wonderful wrap-up with the main characters. Loved it and hope to see more from the author. What will grab your heart even more is if you read the author's note in the back, you will see that Freya's disabilities are the same as the author's daughter. Very touching and beautifully written book.
Lori E. (Wayland, MA)
The book deals with a very difficult subject, a child born with severe health problems and how the parents cope with this. It was thought-provoking, but certainly won't appeal to everyone. More difficulties arise with stress in the marriage, ethical decisions regarding the baby's medical issues and relationships with family and friends. The tough subject matter is offset by interesting descriptions of what it was like for a British couple to move to a decrepit house in France and the people in the community.
Suzanne G. (Tucson, AZ)
A story of love
Although I found the book to be a compelling read, I would be very selective about recommending it to someone I didn't know well, because it could be very disturbing to people who have related issues.
This is a love story. A story that can make you cry, can make you laugh and above all, can make you appreciate life. The experiences of each character in the book will stay with the reader for a long while. It is beautifully written. I did think the ending, including all the characters, seemed too good and sweet and fluffy. There needed to be more "real life" at the closing. Yet, I couldn't put the book down. I loved it.