Wednesday 7 September 2016

Reviewed: The Things I Should Have Told You by Carmel Harrington

TITLE: The Things I Should Have Told You
AUTHOR: Carmel Harrington

PUBLICATION DATE: September 8, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

Every family has a story…

But for the Guinness family a happy ending looks out of reach. Olly and Mae's marriage is crumbling, their teenage daughter Evie is on a mission to self-destruct and their beloved Pops is dying of cancer. Their once strong family unit is slowly falling apart.

But Pops has one final gift to offer his beloved family – a ray of hope to cling to. As his life's journey draws to a close, he sends his family on an adventure across Europe in a camper van, guided by his letters, his wisdom and his love.

Because Pops knows that all his family need is time to be together, to find their love for each other and to find their way back home…

Carmel Harrington has done it again, delivering, with The Things I Should Have Told You, another beautiful and powerful story of love, family and all the tricky pieces that can make or break them. I love this author’s writing – each of her books so far have felt really special and meaningful to me – and I always enjoy Carmel’s books regardless of what number re-read I’m on! – but The Things I Should Have Told You is my new favourite of hers, and one of my absolute favourites of the year. It’s jam packed with emotion and I laughed and cried my way through the book – by the end of chapter two I was doing some messy form of laughing and crying at the same time, which wasn’t a pretty sight. But The Things I Should Have Told You is really thought-provoking, moving and uplifting, destined to turn people like me into emotional wrecks…

The Guinness family is falling apart. Pops is dying of cancer. His son Olly has been made redundant and the arguments between him and his wife Mae are non-stop. Their thirteen year old daughter Evie is in hospital having drunk an overwhelming amount of alcohol. And Jamie, Olly and Mae’s youngest, is just wondering how he can live his life as a superhero. The Guinness family were such joy to read about through both the bad and good times. I cared for them instantly, and loved how we get to read through each of their voices throughout the book. Pops’ last wish for them involves Nomad the campervan, and an eight week journey through Europe. This “journey” wasn’t formulaic in the least – it was absorbing and significant and teaches the Guinness family so much about themselves and each other, and it really did feel like the last chance for them to piece their family back together. The phrase ‘one more chapter is never enough’ was made for this book, as at the end of each chapter I just had to read another.

The way Carmel told this book was incredibly satisfying. Pops, though he is dying, is such an integral part of this book and his insight and wisdom of life and family was tender and heart-warming to read. Pops isn’t physically on the European adventure but he is still very much there, and his letters, which his family read at various moments throughout the book, were funny and warm and honest, full of heart and soul, all the things which I love about Carmel’s writing. Through Pops’ letters and the memories of his life shared, the author had the perfect inspiration for mending the Guinness family, and I cared for them all at every moment. Picking a favourite member of the Guinness family for me is impossible. The character development was brilliant, yet at the same time not forced on the reader at all. It all felt natural, and there was a rewarding feel to the book seeing the positive changes in the characters of Mae, Olly and Evie especially.

The Things I Should Have Told You possesses insightful and true observations of life and family, through the process of grieving and the aftermath of trying to find a way to adjust to a life which has been made different. This book really struck a chord with me and though it is gentle, in a way, it doesn’t skirt over gritty real life and its complexities. People can laugh together at the saddest of times, just like they can cry when everything appears to be going right for them, and Carmel as a writer seems to have a real understanding of people and all their emotions. Most of all though I loved this book for all the laughs it brought as we follow Olly, Mae, Evie and Jamie through Europe. Each stage and destination brought something different and fulfilling to the book and made The Things I Should Have Told You a memorable, inspiring and utterly beautiful novel.

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