We Are All Made of Stars
by Rowan Coleman
Publisher:Penguin Random House/Ballantine Books www.randomhousebooks.com
Book provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
“Fans of Jojo Moyes will love We Are All Made of Stars,” raves Good Housekeeping. Rowan Coleman’s beautiful, life-affirming novel tells an unforgettable story about second chances, the power of words, and the resilience of the heart.
A dedicated nurse, Stella finds comfort at the hospice where she works the late shift, especially since her husband returned from Afghanistan—cold, distant, and shattered by painful memories he refuses to share. The hospice at night is another world, where the dying receive closure by creating the letters that Stella helps them write. The pages are filled with love and humor, sometimes regret, and, occasionally, even instructions for a perplexed husband on how to run appliances. There’s one rule: The letters are mailed only after the patient has passed.
Suddenly Stella is faced with a dilemma: A woman under her care, Grace, has written a confession to the son she abandoned many years before. The letter clearly needs to be read before Grace dies. But if Stella mails it now, she breaks the rule—and risks tampering not only with Grace’s wishes but also with fate.
Navigating passion and grief, loyalty and loss, and a marriage threatened by silence and secrets, Stella discovers that letters hold a special power: granting solace, saving memories, nurturing relationships. As the words endure, love redeems. http://www.randomhousebooks.com/books/241338/
When they are facing their last moments on earth people want to put all their affairs in order. Hospice nurse, Stella, helps her patients by penning their words into letters and making sure those words get to the appointed person. It brings peace and some comfort. Stella, herself, has no such closure when it comes to her own life. Every day, she and her wounded war veteran husband grow further and further apart. But Stella is not the only one trying to find her way, the book also spotlights a twenty year old girl, Hope, who has Cystic Fibrosis and is recovering from her last bout at Stella’s facility, and then there is lonely Hugh, who lives in the nearby neighborhood.
This book which focuses on people associated with a hospice care center could be sorrowing and depressing, but this gifted author has turned the focus from dying to living. Separate lives connected by a place and life’s circumstances are told with tenderness and depth. There are a few tears, moments of reflection, anguish, but humor and joy, too. A truly impactive story that will stick with me for a while.
The book is formatted with three narrators: Stella, Hope, and Hugh. All seem separate stories until they cross paths, connect, and stay connected. Between their chapters of narration, the author has tucked the letters that Stella wrote for her patients making this a combination of narration and epistolary storytelling.
As I noted earlier, the tone of this book is uplifting even if there is conflict in the lives of each of the narrators. Stella loves her husband dearly, but he came back from the war losing more than just his leg. Vincent claims to no longer love her. With Hope, she knows that her predicted expiration date is sooner than other people’s so she has chosen to withdraw from life even though her best bud, Ben does his level best to drag her out into the light and be spontaneous. Hugh has lost both parents and has isolated himself convinced that he is living the charmed life of a bachelor until the loneliness is exposed by the boy and his mom next door. The author tucks in a different romance opportunity for each of her protagonists: second chance for Stella, first love for Hope, and a mature love for Hugh.
The three main characters are colorful and different. Stella is a surface of calm and competence, but underneath she is worn out and hurting at her husband’s rejection. Hope is youthful and naive, but full of sass and sarcasm as she copes with the life fate handed her. Hugh is stodgy before his time and has trouble connecting to the world around him.
The handling of the hospice setting is done well. The author obviously did her homework about just such a private facility and the staff who work there. She also handled Hope’s CF disease, Vincent’s visible and not so visible injuries, and Hugh’s losses with care and dignity as well as knowledge.
Incidentally, the cat character was a total scene-stealer. Jake aka Ninja aka Shadow was a rascal.
All in all, this is a thoughtful, heartwarming read that I recommend heartily.
My thanks to Penguin-Random House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
OTHER PUBLISHER: www.randomhousebooks.com