Author: Menna van Praag,

Publisher: Viking

ISBN:  978-0-670-78463-9

Menna van Praag is a graduate of Oxford College in England. (inside back cover, 2013) She has worked as a freelance writer and journalist. This is her second book to be published [Men, Money and Chocolate]. Her first novel was translated into twenty-six languages and quite well received by her critics. Currently she resides in Cambridge, England with her family. 

There are a few main characters to this book. Much of the plot revolves around a “special” house that can only be seen by women with certain psychic powers and who happen to be in need of guidance. The house is situated on Hope Street. Many highly acclaimed women over the years have come to stay at this majestic abode. Their pictures are hung on the walls and they are capable of conversing with the residents of this home. They offer advice, poke fun, and generally make this place more magical while adding whimsy to the unfurling plot. There are also ghosts of residents past. They too engage in conversations with the residents.

The book opens with a young gal by the name of Alba who has just lost the possibility of working with her mentor on her PhD because she confronted her/him about using her research and claiming it as their own in a recent publication. From there her life seems to lose meaning. She is lost and forlorn until she happens into the house on Hope Street where he life changes dramatically and she learns many valuable lessons about life and love.

Peggy, an elderly woman, is the person who runs this interesting home for wayward women seeking the answers to life’s questions. She allocated a 99 day period that they can stay in her house and then they must move out and on with their lives. She and the assortment of incredible women hanging on her walls help these ladies to find closure, fulfillment, and move forward making their lives have meaning. Peggy has been unable to pursue her own life’s ambitions because of the demands this house places upon her. Her life revolves around the women who come to stay there and how best to help them. While she is not entirely unhappy, she does have some misgivings that begin to fester as the plot runs ahead. She has a man whom she has come to love and spend time with regularly, Harry. They are both upwards in age and believe that time, overall, is running short. Harry lives next door. He wants to marry Peggy and asks as often as humanly possible. Peggy always declines. They share life, love, and chocolate cake, but long for more. Will they ever be able to be a couple in the truest sense of the word or are they destined to be lovers that never quite unite?

Two other ladies are central to the overall plot of this cleverly written tale. Their names are Carmen and Greer. Unbeknownst to them, they happen to fall for the same guy who ends up being somewhat of a scoundrel and womanizer. Blake is his name. Because they both need gainful employment they work in his bar. He is handsome, charming to a fault, and an ardent lover. Once he has cast his spell women usually fall head over heels in love with him, but his fault is that he is unable to commit. Carmen and Greer find themselves at odds because of this mans’ deception. Will they forgive and forget or remain adversaries?

Alba comes from a well to do family that has been afforded every luxury, except perhaps love. Her father left when she was still young. Her mother spent time in and out of psych wards. Both parents are now dead. This news saddens her immensely. She later learns that she is not the whole sister of her siblings, but their half sister which has created a lifetime of resentment and ill will. However, the silver lining is that her real father still lives. Alba is divided between finding him and letting things lie. Will she reunite with her real father or stumble through the rest of her life wondering about him?

I loved this book and think you will too.

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