Blog Tour: The Secrets of Strangers, Charity Norman

Book Review: The Secrets of Strangers, Charity Norman

 

The Secrets of Strangers, Charity Norman

Fiction: The Secrets of Strangers, Charity Norman

 

Most books are pleasant. Enjoyable. Sometimes exciting. I like them well enough but they scratch the typical itches. They aren’t shattering. They don’t cut to your core. They are absolutely worth the time and effort to read them (and review them), but I don’t necessarily close my eyes at the end, breathe a deep sigh, and consider myself to have been undone by a novel.

 

The Secrets of Strangers did exactly that. I felt completely gobsmacked. I was moved to tears, trembling at times, invested in these characters and in this story. I’m at a bit of a loss as I write this, still emotionally caught up in the story I just read.

 

Several strangers are brought together by random chance in a London cafe one morning. Neil is (as we Americans say) homeless, living with his dog on the streets. Abi is a 30-year old lawyer on her way to court. Mutesi is a grandmother who works nights as a caregiver in a nursing home. Each of them stops for a few minutes at the Tuckbox, a small cafe specializing in coffee and light meals.

 

At least, that is the intent.

 

Their day blows up when a gunman bursts through the door and fatally shoots the owner of the Tuckbox. He then barricades the doors, closes the curtains, and turns his attention to the patrons. Along with the three mentioned above are several others who are caught in the midst of a drama they wanted no part of.

 

Charity Norman manages to pull all the marrow out the bones of a single day, in a setting primarily within the dining area of a single cafe. We get to know each of these people intimately. We also get to know the shooter and the negotiator. How did they happen to be at the Tuckbox that morning? What stories do their lives tell? On this day which could be any of their last on earth, what memories have they left behind?

 

Like an expert builder, Norman takes block after block and turns ordinary bricks into a work of art. Neil’s past life. Abi’s dreams. Mutesi’s investment in the future. Even the gunman’s past and present collide during this gruelling day filled with tension and fear.

 

Any one of us is constantly recreated by the stories we believe about ourselves. Those stories may be absolute fact. They may be cut from whole cloth. Usually there is a mixture of myth and reality in our own personal histories. But the stories make us, shape us, define us. They control how we present ourselves to the world, how we think of ourselves when we are alone, how we connect to each other and what we like and dislike.

 

In this book, Charity Norman has told us the stories of various strangers. Their histories. Their secrets. Their hopes. Their dreams. Their fears. Knowing these stories invests us in their outcomes. We may not like or approve of the characters. Still, the stories pull us in, making us intimate with their thoughts and the outcome of their stories. This is one of the most compelling and moving books I have read in some time. 

 

author The Secrets of Strangers, Charity Norman poster The Secrets of Strangers, Charity Norman

Our deep and sincere thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours, author Charity Norman, and publisher Allen & Unwin for my copy of The Secrets of Strangers given solely in exchange for my review. And my apologies to all of them for the lateness of this review. All I can do is ask for forgiveness.

 

The Secrets of Strangers, Charity Norman

Book Review: The Secrets of Strangers, Charity Norman

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