Ever since Tall Chimneys, my very first encounter with author Allie Cresswell, I have been impressed with the psychological depth of her characters as well as the absolute beauty of her writing. The sheer poetry of her language isn’t as pronounced in this book as it was in the others I’ve read, yet the story captivated me and was a true eye-opener.
Maisie, wife of Clifford and mother of three grown children, is unexpectedly widowed due to an accident. Her husband has left her a mansion full of junk – he was a hoarder and every nook and cranny of their house is crammed with a wild assortment of things he intended to use for something. All her married life, Maisie put up with it without complaint, but now she needs to declutter. Bit by bit she works her way through the mountains of furniture, magazines, and assorted waste, until she discovers her husband’s deepest secret and the reason for his hoarding. Along the way, she not only builds a new life for herself, but also finds new friends.
The point of view of the book alternates between Maisie’s daily struggles to come to terms with her widowhood and – interestingly enough – Cliffords thoughts while he was still alive. In this manner, the author allows a deep glimpse into the hoarder’s head and heart, while at the same time showing the consequences for those who lived with him. Maisie is a timid woman, but determined to free her home of all the junk. With the aid of her newfound friends, all of which are quirky, burdened characters, who nevertheless need and support each other, she tackles the task.
I absolutely love how the author holds a magnifying glass on the soul of her characters without ever shaming them. The whole story, despite its difficult topic, has an underlying sense of warmth, love and hope and thereby touches deeply – likely deeper than any sensationalist reality TV show ever could.
The book is the first in a two book (so far) series titled „Widows“ and I have read the sequel The Widow’s Mite right away. It takes up the story of book one, but focusses on one of Maisie’s friends, Minnie, also widowed and fallen prey to not only her stepchildren, who hate her and want to throw her out of the house they claim to have inherited, but also to a couple of thugs who pretend to have had business dealings with her late husband that require further payments against a large investment that will soon be due.
I must admit that I had no patience for Minnie’s naiveté. The scam was so obvious I found it hard to believe anyone could fall for that, even though I know these things happen. I mainly kept reading to learn what became of Maisie and found that storyline very rewarding. Should there be another book in the series, I’d certainly read it. The characters make it worthwhile.
If you enjoy unique stories off the mainstream genres you should definitely give Allie Cresswell a chance. I recommend these books as well as the Talbot Saga, and I’ll be sure to get around to her regency novels in due time, too.