Saving Missy, a novel by Beth Morrey, guarantees hours of happy reading in these days of social isolation and physical distancing. Written in first person, the protagonist draws the reader into her story from page one.
The author, Beth Morrey, was voted one of the Guardian’s ten best debut writers for 2020. In an interview she said,
‘I wanted to write a book about hope that would make people cry in a happy way.’
I have no doubt that she has succeeded in this aim with Saving Missy.
At almost eighty years of age, Millicent Carmichael (Missy) lives alone in a much-too-large house in an English village. Lonely and prickly, she attempts to fill her days without friends or meaningful occupation as she grieves the family she has lost.
Her son, Alistair, lives in Sydney with his wife and Millicent’s grandson, Arthur. She misses them and longs to hear from her son. But he constantly disappoints her, because he is too busy to email his mother.
Millicent has alienated herself from her daughter, Melanie, who lives with Octavia in Cambridge. She says,
‘I ate dry toast and brooded over my last conversation with her and for a second bristles of shame itched at the back of my neck.’
Missy’s life changes when child named Otis distracts her in a park. He sounds just like her Arthur. Otis and his mother, Angela, befriend Missy. The author soon introduces other characters, unlikely friends for an old woman, and finally a dog.
It takes courage to reach out to others at any age, but perhaps more so in old age. However, Missy makes tentative steps to engage with her new friend. In return, they reward her with warmth and acceptance, love and laughter.
From there, although Missy’s story improves, it is not without complications and setbacks.
Structure of Saving Missy
The first person protagonist works well in the the structure of the novel. A series of flashbacks and memories of her former life with her husband, Leo, a university lecturer and their children create a rounded character and a believable story-arc.
At first this lonely old woman seems remote. But as the story unfolds so too do the complexities of her character.
The backstory also moves the story forward as we discover what Missy remembers, values and yearns for.
There is a mystery at the heart of this novel. A second reading reveals all the clues and foretelling that a reader could ask for. But, when the author uncovers the last piece of the puzzle, I felt the shock of recognition.
The other characters
Each of the characters brings something of value to the story. They are believable, complex and lovable. Together, they form a whole which is trans-generational and heart-warming.
Even the dog, Bobby, displays special attributes, and has a central place in Missy’s life and in the novel.
Saving Missy warmed my heart, although without the sentimentality I might have expected. Highly recommended, especially if you are looking for a satisfying book, light enough to read effortlessly during isolation. It could also be perfect for an online book club discussion.
You can purchase this book from online bookshops or read it online through Amazon Books.
OTHER BOOK REVIEWS
If you like books with older protagonists, you might like these reviews of books I loved.