Finished March 6
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce
This novel is a follow-up of a sort to the earlier book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In that novel, Harold undertook a journey to Queenie. This book reveals Queenie's story, her feelings for Harold, her relationship with him and how it developed over time. It also reveals her interactions with David, Harold's son, and her underlying feelings of guilt for hiding this relationship from Harold and how she felt she failed David.
Queenie is living in a hospice, dying from cancer, and we learn her story gradually, how she first came to Kingsbridge and worked at the brewery and met Harold, how she left there and where she went, how she came to live by the sea, and how she came to where she is now.
We meet the other patients at the hospice, Mr. Henderson, Barbara, The Pearly King, and Finty are particularly memorable. We meet the staff, mostly nuns who look after the patients there, seeing to their needs and making their final days more comfortable and helping them find small joys.
It is one of these nuns that Queenie meets and that spends time with her, urging her to tell her story in a letter to Harold. Queenie can't speak properly due to her cancer, and struggles to write with a pencil her story. Sister Mary Inconnue then transcribes it with her typewriter. She also seems to connect with Queenie more intimately than the other nuns, understanding her needs and helping her find the joy and comfort in her surroundings, taking notice of people and objects beyond her to ease her own pain, sadness, and discomfort.
This is a book reflecting on life, love, the connections between us all, and beauty in the world around us. The love song of Queenie isn't only for Harold, it is for herself, and for the world she experienced and imagined.