By Lynn Willoughby
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy ~ Rachel Joyce
Queenie is dying in a hospice in northern England. She has lived alone on a wind-swept cliff over looking the ocean, tending her garden for twenty years. Not a very exciting beginning for a book you are thinking. But in fact, this is a lovely little book.
Queenie writes a note to Harold Fry, someone she had worked with twenty years ago, fallen in love with and remembers every day of her life. No one is more surprised than Queenie when she receives a reply from Harold. She never receives mail, but sitting in the day room of the hospice a note arrives for her. Harold has left his home in Kingsbridge, in southern England. The note, when read aloud by the nurse, says only “Wait for me.”
This sounds like a really morbid story line or a rather sappy love story. It is neither. We get to know all the residents in the hospice – Mr Henderson from Scotland, who often receives parcels in the mail. He begins to open them in the day room and give everyone a shot of Scotch in their mid-afternoon “nutritional” drinks. We see Finty as a real person – not just an eccentric old woman with a foul mouth who loves hats. We understand that Pearly King – for all his wealth and power in the gangster world is alone and dying.
The nuns who care for the patients are real people with real personalities. They know when to sit quietly, when to give a back rub, when to howl with laughter.
But it is Queenie herself who we really come to know. She calls her life “small”. But is it? Her giddiness around Harold Fry, the picnics she has made, her evenings of dancing, the sea garden she creates, her never ending love for Harold, for people, for life are truly inspirational. She SEES what is small – the veins on a leaf, the colour of a rock, her life in shoes. I thought she was marvelous.
This is a great book to read when you need to be reminded that you are not alone, that many people are waiting…”the nurse who is waiting to put her feet up, …the woman waiting for Harold Fry. A man waiting for good news. A student waiting for exam results. A woman waiting for a child.”
- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry