[b:The Hoarder's Widow|28919852|The Hoarder's Widow|Allie Cresswell|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1455210532s/28919852.jpg|49136260]
[a:Allie Cresswell|6457033|Allie Cresswell|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1360662715p2/6457033.jpg]
354 pages, $8.50 Kindle, $12.99 paperback
We meet our protagonist Maisie at the moment of her transformation from wife to widow as her husband Clifford Wilde makes what can only be described as a spectacular exit from his role as husband, protector and, as the title gives away, hoarder. Author Allie Cresswell’s language delights throughout from the fiery first page, as she swiftly, concretely and vividly dispatches poor Clifford, allowing him a brief moment to explain himself before launching into the main adventure, Maisie’s long-delayed blossoming into the person she was meant to be.
Long confined and nearly entombed by her husband’s towering piles of broken treasures, we meet Maisie as she must deal with the logistics and shock of widowhood. I did not expect such a delightful journey from such a sad and soggy beginning. Though the rains fall often in this tale set in a lonely house at the end of a lane in the English countryside, Maisie’s personal journey and the friendships, knowledge and family she gains along the way are as warm and bright and comforting as a shiny copper kettle calling the reader to tea. The story is infused with a deep empathy and tenderness for the flawed and difficult personalities struggling with their challenges, whether it be Maisie coming to grips with what she has lost during her years with Clifford and the secrets she must face, or her hen party of new friends squabbling, or her limited and awkward grown children fluttering around her, casualties as much as she was of their father’s odd tendencies.
I do not wish to rob readers of the pleasures of meeting the emerging Maisie and her new friends, so I will not describe them except to say that their interactions provide wonderful moments of humor and poignancy as they accompany Maisie on her journey to her new life. Ms. Cresswell possesses a deft and elegant touch in creating her vivid characters both major and minor, all cracked pots and imperfect, but treated as worthy of happiness even so.
The plot may be simple, but it moves along at a comfortable clip, moving inexorably forward as Maisie uncovers old secrets and makes new friendships. Along the way, Maisie and the reader explore family, those families we are born into and marry as well as those we create with our friends or claim through duty mingled with forgiveness and understanding.
Film producers working with actresses “of a certain age” who complain of the lack of juicy parts for women of middle age would do well to grab this book and imagine casting Maisie and her friends. I can see a delightful ensemble piece, full of heart and insight into human foibles, anchored by Maisie and filled out by her friends, a must-see cozy film for those of us who long for something on the big screen without car chases or space aliens.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys superbly written, character-driven fiction. There is nothing flashy in this simple tale, but it is a rich and filling feast of real and complex characters muddling through life’s challenges and finding their way forward together. I would write more, but I need to go find out what else Ms. Cresswell has written, and settle in with a cup of tea and another of her stories.