Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Harper Impulse fortnight - book review: The Life You Left by Carmel Harrington

"It started out like any other day for Sarah Lawler; getting the kids ready for school, making the pack lunches and juggling baby Ella’s feeds. There was no way of knowing that her husband, Paul, would leave for work that morning and simply not come home.

Now the questions are piling up quicker than the unpaid bills and, unable to answer her children’s questions about where their Daddy is, Sarah is getting desperate.

But it turns out she isn’t quite as alone as she thought she was. When her beloved childhood friend, Edward, comes back into her life, Sarah thinks she’s finally been thrown a life line.

There’s just one problem with Edward: Sarah is the only person who can see him."

As part of Harper Impulse fortnight Katy from Books with Bunny very kindly arranged for me to receive a copy of The Life You Left for me to review. I haven't read any  books by Carmel Harrington before - something I'm glad I've now re-addressed as she is brilliant. The story took me by surprise and wasn't what I expected, making me appreciate every word and enjoy it even more. 

The story follows Sarah, a mum-of-three busy looking after her children, not quite aware that her marriage isn't quite what it used to be. This soon comes to light when her Husband Paul doesn't come home one evening and then announces he's leaving her. She is helped through the difficult situation by her childhood friend, Edward. Only Edward isn't any ordinary friend - he's imaginary, her guardian angel. When a brutal murder occurs in their village, Sarah starts having premonitions about the killer and so, with the help of her wonderful private investigator brother, James, she tries to identify the killer so the village can return to a quiet, safe haven. All this occurs while she deals with becoming a single parent, her childhood imaginary friend returning and her sudden ability to have premonitions and help people in her community because of them. 

The story is fast-paced with a lot going on, especially after the murder occurs. After this event the story becomes even more gripping as you're so eager to find out what happened. I really enjoyed Carmel's writing style, in particular her ability to make the dialogue between the characters so fluid and real it was like you were actually taking part in a genuine conversation with them. Thanks to brilliant description I could easily picture each scene and feel like I was there - especially standing in Sarah's kitchen chatting with her family and friends. 

The psychic element of The Life You Left surprised me as I wasn't expecting it to play such a huge part  of the story - but I'm glad it did as it adds a whole new layer of intrigue to this intricate and robust story. I'm not a big believer in psychic powers myself, but that didn't stop me enjoying the book -it's something different that makes The Life You Left stand out from just a normal 'husband leaves wife, wife tries to move on' kind of novel. 

There are some great characters in the story that are so real I felt like I became embedded in their lives. Sarah as a main character is brilliant - considerate, hard-working and a fab mum. Her twin James is just delightful, he cares so much for his sister and will do anything to help her. He firmly stands by her side when she talks about Edward and her physic abilities and doesn't doubt her - despite not being able to see Edward himself. He was my firm favorite in the book, a beacon of support for Sarah and an absolute joy to read. Through Sarah's psychic abilities we also meet some new characters. She has a premonition about Joey, her postman, considering taking his life as he is so lonely and down. From this, she engages with Joey and realises he is a lovely, genuine man and so she also introduces him to her family and friends, inviting him round for dinner. He soon becomes a great friend to everyone - he is a great, gentle character and is a brilliant part of the story. 

The Life You Left is a brilliantly written, clever story that I fully enjoyed. The psychic and guardian angel elements add a welcome yet unusual twist to a story about a woman's journey through heartbreak, suffering and self-discovery. The characters and location jump off the page and remain firmly in your mind long after you put down this delight. If you haven't read it yet, I would highly recommend you do - it's an absolute treat.

Also keep an eye out for an author Q&A with Carmel later in the week! 

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