I picked this up knowing nothing about it, but was drawn in by the promise of a tour through my beloved Dublin. The book didn't disappoint on that front, but the story left me feeling conflicted. While the book jacket describes Vivian as whimsical and free-spirited (and she is in many ways), this felt more like a heartbreaking look into the mind of someone struggling with the effects of an abusive childhood and mental illness. Uncomfortable encounters and increasingly poor hygiene amp up the cringes as the book progresses, even as a friendship is presented as a possible beacon of light. While this had its amusing moments and some sharp observations from a unique mind, I ultimately found it unsatisfying.
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From the publisher’s description:
A whimsical, touching debut about loneliness, friendship and hope.
Vivian doesn’t feel like she fits in – and never has. As a child, she was so whimsical that her parents told her she was “left by fairies.” Now, living alone in Dublin, the neighbors treat her like she’s crazy, her older sister condescends to her, social workers seem to have registered her as troubled, and she hasn’t a friend in the world.
So, she decides it’s time to change her life: She begins by advertising for a friend. Not just any friend. She wants one named Penelope. Meanwhile, she roams the city, mapping out a new neighborhood every day, seeking her escape route to a better world, the other world her parents told her she came from. And then one day someone named Penelope answers her ad for a friend. And from that moment on, Vivian’s life begins to change.
Debut author Caitriona Lally offers readers an exhilaratingly fresh take on the Irish love for lyricism, humor, and inventive wordplay in a book that is, in itself, deeply charming, and deeply moving.